Masters Rental Tax Bills Stirring Opposition

Phil Kent

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

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Two bills that will be carried over to the 2020 General Assembly have various renters across the state up in arms, but resistance is especially strong at the home of the famed Masters golf tournament: Augusta.

Homeowners in the Augusta area for decades have rented their homes for one week a year to tournaments visitors and pocketed the rental income tax-free. But along came H.B. 448 — authored by state Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta— that would expand the definition of “innkeeper” to include anyone who facilitates a lodging rental and adds a $5 nightly excise tax to the stay.

One of the bill’s original sponsors was state Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, quoted by The Augusta Chronicle as saying a House study committee on short-term rentals headed by Dollar opposed taxing rentals of fewer than 15 days, mirroring federal law, but somehow that language was dropped.

The Chronicle went on to quote Newton saying that H.B. 448 was intended to capitalize on the growth in large cities of online housing brokers such as Airbnb, but its authors neglected to exclude Augusta and Athens where homeowners rent during University of Georgia football games. “There are very few areas of the state where a significant amount of rent can be obtained for a one-week stay,” he said.

Sue Parr, president of the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce, is especially unhappy. The Chamber welcomes modernizing Georgia’s tax structure but Masters rental properties differ sharply from property available to generate rental income year-round, she says.

“These are primary residences being rented once a year for one week on average,” Parr notes. “These are not income properties in any regular sense or business sense of the word.”

The Augusta Chamber opposes H.B. 448 as well as H.B. 276 by Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, which would impose a similar sales tax. Specifically, H.B. 276 charges a 4 percent sales tax to all “marketplace sellers and marketplace facilitators,” which includes rental brokers, ride-sharing services such as Uber, and online auction companies such as eBay.