Airbnb forced to hand over tax data on landlords

Rented out a flat on Airbnb but haven't declared the earnings? You could be in for an expensive surprise – tax investigators have secured landlord data and are analysing it.

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Hamburg-Landlords who have rented out properties over the booking platform Airbnb without declaring the proceeds to tax authorities could be in for a visit from the office for tax evasion. That’s because Airbnb now has to hand over data from landlords for tax inspection purposes.

Hamburg officials announced on Wednesday, 2 September that their right to legally access the company's data was achieved by a task force made up of the city's tax authorities and counterparts at a national level and from other states in Germany, following years of international legal proceedings.

Data will now be analysed by officers in Hamburg and then distributed to other states.

Officials haven’t named Airbnb specifically, but spoke of “a portal for booking and securing accommodation, operating worldwide” - which would seem to make it pretty clear who they’re talking about.

“This is a great success for the Hamburg tax investigators,” Hamburg’s finance minister Andreas Dressel (SPD) said. The move marks the first successful international joint initiative relating to rental revenue from online platforms.

“With this step we have secured an important breakthrough in shedding light on what has been a considerable dark spot,” Dressel said. “This data will help identify income previously undeclared to tax authorities so that they can be properly taxed.”

Revenue from an Airbnb rental is taxable once it exceeds €520 annually and the total income is in excess of the basic tax allowance (€9,408 for a single adult). Anyone found to have committed tax evasion could be faced with a fine or prison term of up to five years, with especially serious cases possibly incurring a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

Regardless of their sentence, offenders will also face retrospective payments of tax dodged over the last 10 years, along with 6 per cent interest.