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The region’s Airbnb operators are on tenterhooks after the Australian Tax Office last week announced short-stay rental income was in its sights.

The popular home-share platform, which is worth more than $30 million to the WA economy, told its users that it was “currently under legal notice by the Australian Taxation Office to share information concerning your hosting activity”.

Anyone who used Airbnb in the first six months of the year is in the tax office’s crosshairs, with Airbnb handing over names, addresses and phone numbers.

“As you are aware, Airbnb collects information that enables hosts and guests to use the Airbnb platform and payment services,” Airbnb said in its email.

“In accordance with our terms of service, from time to time we may be legally required to share certain information with governmental authorities.”

Neither the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River nor the City of Busselton are yet to have been asked to provide registration information.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokeswoman Debbie Noonan said the ATO move would catch out operators.

Calling the crackdown “great news,” Mrs Noonan said some hosts would be “stung by capital gains”.

“This data sharing opens the floodgates for many uneducated Airbnb hosts, not only with the ATO, but could see them committing insurance and bank fraud along with capital gains on their properties,” she said.

“There are a lot of people running small businesses from their homes who have a regular home loan application. The ramifications for a lot will be considerable.”

Some Airbnb operators said they were scrambling to get their paperwork in order and believed unregistered operators would finally be caught out.

Since an increase in action on unregistered operators, the Augusta-Margaret River Shire said application for planning approval were steady, with two thirds of operators seeking renewals. The City of Busselton said the ATO crackdown was a matter for individual operators.

“Applications for holiday-home registration have been steady over the past three years and the City is closely monitoring illegal operation of premises across the municipality,” acting planning and development services director Tanya Gillett said.

“Registration compliance has significantly improved over the past 12 to 18 months.”

The ATO said the investigation affected the first six months of 2019 and would draw on comprehensive data matching.

 

Warren Hately
Augusta Margaret River Times