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Oak Park seeks to tax Airbnb rentals

Hoping to “level the playing field,” the Oak Park Village Board announced its intention to tax Airbnb renters at a similar rate as hotels and traditional bed and breakfast guests.

During the Aug. 7 village board meeting, trustee held a first reading of an ordinance that would recognize “transient occupancy rental units” in private residences and tax them at a rate of 4 percent, which is the same as the village’s hotel/motel tax rate.

According to village staff, the request to regulate Airbnb rentals came from existing bed and breakfast owners in the village.

Those using the Airbnb service create an account online and begin searching for rental properties in their desired location. They can connect with Airbnb hosts, who determine a price and agreement for the duration of the visit.

Under the proposal, the village’s tax dollars would be collected by Airbnb, which would then relay those dollars to the village. Similar to hotel/motel tax dollars, Airbnb taxes would be given to Visit Oak Park for the promotion of local tourism, officials said.

Several village board members said they have used Airbnb in the past and stressed the plan is not to ban the service, but tax it at a rate of similar-use properties.

“We’re not going into the landlords’ books or paperwork,” Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said. “All we’re doing is having a relationship with Airbnb. Airbnb collects that tax we’re thinking about imposing and sends it to the village, and we will use that for tourism and to attract people to the village of Oak Park.”

Prior to adopting the ordinance, trustees asked village staff just how many Airbnb rental units were available in Oak Park, an answer staff said was difficult to track down.

“We don’t know that information and can’t get that information from Airbnb,” said Tammie Grossman, Oak Park’s development customer services director. “Airbnb will not just give us the list and number of people renting and type of space.”