ATHENS – With Greek hotel owners pressing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to slap taxes up to 45 percent on Airbnb and short-term rentals, the site’s owners have refused to provide details on users to the government, citing privacy regulations.
Airbnb, which offers renters the opportunity to rent a room, apartment or home instead of a hotel room, often at prices far lower, said on its website that it wouldn’t go along with Greece trying to probe for financial details of its business.
“Hosts on Airbnb want to pay their share of tax and we want to help but in respect of their privacy. Personal data are subject to strict rules to protect privacy and we want to work together on a better way forward. Airbnb routinely shares information with Greece on the impacts of home sharing. Personal data is shared only through a valid legal request pursuant to national and European data privacy laws.”
The company said it would not hand over the the tax registration numbers of its property owners, even though it knows that multiple property entries by the same owner aimed at tax-free investment utilization concerns at least 40 percent of its customers in Greece, said Kathimerini in a report.
According to Greek law, owners are not allowed to lease out more than two properties per tax registration number unless they set up a company for that purpose and are taxed accordingly and the Radical Left SYRIZA, desperate for every euro during a crushing economic crisis, plans to hit Airbnb and other short-term rental sites hard, both for revenue and, critics said, to appease the country’s powerful hotel industry which doesn’t want the heated competition.
According to Airbnb, the average annual takings of Greek owners last year came to 2,375 euros ($2,787,) while the average occupancy stood at just three days per month, although that is skewed because it also includes thousands of properties listed without having a single visitor and therefore no revenues, as they have been incorrectly registered or are simply located in unpopular areas.
The paper said most Greek property owners are not declaring the Airbnb and other rentals although they could face fines up to 50,000 euros ($58,682) under pending legislation that targets such companies as the country has undergone several record-breaking tourist years and another looms for 2018.
Without the tax details from the companies, the government wouldn’t be able to crosscheck the revenue source because most of the guests are foreigners who wouldn’t declare what they spent to Greek authorities. Ironically, Airbnb and short-term rentals are starting to drive up the price of properties that were going for little or were unrentable during the lingering crisis.