On behalf of Palm Beach County Florida, Anne Gannon, in her capacity as Palm Beach County Tax Collector, filed a declaratory-judgment action against Airbnb and other short-term accommodation platforms on March 25, 2020 asserting that the companies are considered “dealers” for purposes of the Florida Tourist Development Tax and were required to collect and remit the tax. The tax in question was the county tax on short-term rental bookings.
The Florida Fourth District of Court of Appeal reviewed the case and affirmed a lower court’s ruling by coming to the decision that Airbnb and the other short-term accommodation platforms were not “dealers” and were not required to collect and remit the county’s tax. The Court of Appeal held that the companies were not exercising a “taxable privilege” by engaging in the business of renting because the companies did “not own, possess, or have a leasehold interest to convey any of the properties listed on their online platforms.” The Court of Appeal stated the companies were “simply conduits.” The majority in the Court of Appeal decision concluded that a “dealer” is the owner of the property, or the owner’s agent, who ultimately receives the consideration.
On July 1, 2020, Anne Gannon asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the appellate decision. However, the Florida Supreme Court declined to review the case. (Anne M. Gannon, etc. vs. Airbnb, Inc., et al, District Court of Appeal, 4th District, Case No. 4D19-0541)