Vacation property owners ask county to give back double lodging tax payments

by Kate Shunney

Another vacation rental owner has asked the county for reimbursement of Hotel/Motel tax payments that were paid both by the owner and the Airbnb service. Doug Boyles told commissioners on July 19 he was sending the 6% lodging tax to the county and didn’t know that Airbnb, which handles the rental bookings, was also sending the tax to the county.

This is at least the third request the commissioners have gotten in recent months to reimburse property owners for the double tax payments related to rental properties.

County officials agreed to the reimbursement, and asked Boyles to tabulate the total owed to him.

They explained that Airbnb started collecting and paying the Hotel/Motel tax on January 1, 2022 but didn’t notify their clients they were doing so.

The company also does not supply property information with their monthly lodging tax payment to the county, said Commissioner Joel Tuttle. The county has no way to know which properties the payments are coming in for, said Tuttle.

Laura Breeden from the Sheriff’s Tax Office said there is a new form being send to vacation rental property owners asking how they are collecting and remitting the lodging tax to the county, so the records can be accurate.

There are other vacation rental platforms that offer short-term rentals in Morgan County, and each handle the lodging tax in different ways.

For years, county officials struggled to determine what local properties were being used for vacation rentals so that the homes would be under the correct real estate tax classification, and the lodging tax could be enforced.

Commissioner Forney said short term rentals and Airbnb have been a positive for the county.

“It’s been really good. Hotel/Motel has really gone up,” he said.

A July 20 online Airbnb search for Berkeley Springs showed 220 properties in the results. A search for Great Cacapon produced 179 places for rent.

Commissioner Bill Clark suggested the county create a form to use for property owners who are seeking the tax reimbursement.