Statement from Treasurer José Cisneros on Transient Occupancy Taxes Owed to the City and County of San Francisco

October 21, 2014

***STATEMENT FROM TREASURER JOSÉ CISNEROS ON TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAXES OWED TO THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO***

"The Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector has the charter authority and obligation to collect all business taxes in San Francisco, including the transient occupancy tax. The Office takes this responsibility seriously, and has worked hard and successfully to fairly and efficiently implement the Business and Tax Regulations Code.  

Regarding TOT owed by website companies and hosts, more than two years ago this Office promulgated a regulation clarifying that both website companies and hosts are jointly and severally responsible for the payment of the full amount of TOT for any short-term rentals.  No existing or proposed law in any way alters these TOT obligations, including the obligation to pay any unpaid taxes. 

In the intervening time since that regulation, this Office has worked to understand the short-term rental industry, and has recently put forward filing instructions and information for both hosts and website companies so that they can more easily meet their tax filing and payment obligations.  These instructions can be found at the office website:  www.sftreasurer.org/hosts

This Office is proud of its work in diligently and effectively collecting amounts owed to the City and County of San Francisco, and has a wide array of options to collect outstanding taxes that remain unpaid.  Taxpayer confidentiality laws prevent this Office from commenting on the Office’s collection and enforcement efforts with regard to individual taxpayers, except where those efforts have involved public lawsuits. 

In past public lawsuits related to the transient occupancy tax, this Office has taken strong tax collection and enforcement actions  in cases worth several million or even tens of millions of tax dollars, for example: in relation to transient airline crew stays (American Airlines, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco, Case No. 435-423, filed October 13th, 2004, judgment for the City entered June 22, 2006 & BHR Operations LLC vs. City and County of San Francisco, Case No. 498-514, filed April 9, 2010, pending), and against on-line travel company operators (Transient Occupancy Tax Cases Coordinated Proceeding, Case No. JCCP 4472, filed June 19, 2009, appeal pending). In each example given, taxpayers filed lawsuits and the entire collection process took (or is taking) years to reach final resolution. The Office takes seriously its charter obligation to collect and safeguard monies that are vital to the functioning of the City."

CONTACT: Amanda Fried, Office of the Treasurer-Tax Collector

PHONE: (415) 554-0889

EMAIL: amanda.fried@sfgov.org

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