San Diego imposes a Transient Occupancy Tax on short-term rentals, including through services like Airbnb and Vrbo. Hosts are responsible for paying these taxes.
When does the Transient Occupancy Tax apply?
Typically, the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) applies to rentals that are less than 30 days. It includes hotels, motels, RV parks, campgrounds, and rentals in private residences.
The tax applies whether you rent directly, through an online service, or through a property management company.
How much is the transient occupancy tax?
The TOT tax in San Diego County is generally 10.5% except for large lodging businesses. Most property owners using services like Airbnb will fall under the 10.5% tax rate.
The tax works similarly to a sales tax, and you can charge it to your guests. However, you are responsible for paying it even if you fail to collect it.
Who is responsible for collecting and paying the tax?
The property owner is responsible for collecting and paying the tax.
Some large services, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, collect the tax and pay it to the city treasurer on the host’s behalf. You’re legally responsible for making sure the service you use is doing so.
Taxes for rentals during the current month are due on the last day of the following month. For example, taxes for stays in January are due on February 28th.
Late payment penalties of up to 25% can apply to back taxes. Non-payment is also a misdemeanor offense under the City of San Diego code.
Do you have to register with the City of San Diego?
San Diego generally requires owners of short-term rentals to have a transient occupancy registration certificate. You can apply online.
Even if you use an online booking service, you generally need to have your own transient occupancy registration certificate. The larger apps will guide you through what you need to do and often won’t activate your listings until you show that you have the required certificates.
However, it is your responsibility as the host to make sure you have all required certificates, business licenses, permits, or other legal matters covered.
What should I do if I haven’t been paying the required taxes?
If you haven’t been paying the required taxes, you should contact a tax accountant or lawyer as soon as possible.
Generally, it’s better to pay what you owe as soon as possible and explain that you weren’t aware of the taxes versus getting caught in an audit later. However, since there is still a potential for large fines or criminal charges, it can be a good idea to get professional advice before you do anything.
What if I have properties outside of San Diego, CA?
Most cities and counties in California have some form of TOT tax or TMD assessment. You should review the requirements and procedures for each location where you have properties rented on a short-term basis.