The Great American Eclipse, coming Aug. 21, is expected to create a surge in demand for short-term rentals in Idaho Falls and throughout eastern Idaho.
Some experts predict as many as 500,000 eclipse chasers will descend upon the region for the event.
That unusually high demand has led some hosts to jack up the prices they charge to rent their homes. One large local home is currently listed at nearly $3,000 per night around the eclipse, with a minimum stay of three nights. By contrast, rentals not oriented toward the eclipse rarely exceed $200 per night.
Those skyrocketing prices are likely to convince even more homeowners to offer their homes for rent.
That presents a problem for the Idaho Falls Auditorium District. While Airbnb has a deal with the state to collect taxes for the Boise Auditorium District, there’s no such deal in place for the state’s other auditorium districts. That means short-term rental hosts living in auditorium districts have to pay those taxes on their own.
Executive Director Cindy Ozaki said the Idaho Falls Auditorium District is working to educate hosts about how to register with the district and pay the tax.
“When we started working with many of the short-term rental owners, once they knew, they all said they were willing to do what they’re supposed to do,” she said.
And Airbnb said it wants hosts to cooperate as well.
“Our community of hosts want to pay their fair share,” said Jasmine Mora, Airbnb spokeswoman for Idaho. “We have worked with 275 governments around the world to help hosts pay taxes and want to do the same across Idaho.”
Airbnb has instructions on its website about how to use the “Special Offer” feature to add the tax into the listed price of a short-term rental.
All short-term rental hosts have to pay a 6 percent sales tax and a 2 percent tourism tax. Airbnb has a deal where it collects these taxes for the state, but for hosts in auditorium districts there’s another tax to pay. And other hosting companies such as VRBO do not have equivalent tax agreements in place.
So short-term rental hosts whose homes that fall within the Idaho Falls city limits will have to register and pay the 5 percent tax to the Auditorium District, because the district’s boundaries are the same as the city’s, Ozaki said.
There are currently 79 homes listed on Airbnb during the eclipse weekend, and there are likely many more that have already been filled, so the listing has been pulled down. But Ozaki said only a handful of hosts have registered with the Auditorium District to pay the required tax.
“We didn’t realize that people didn’t know about it,” she said.
The forms to register and pay the tax are both available at idahofallsauditoriumdistrict.com. Ozaki said the taxes have to be filed quarterly. The filing deadlines are April 20, July 20, Oct. 20 and Jan. 20. In addition to services such as Airbnb and VRBO, the tax applies to any rental that lasts less than 30 days, from hotel rooms to campgrounds.
If taxes aren’t paid, there’s a 5 percent penalty plus 4 percent interest, Ozaki said.
Residents who are considering renting out their homes on a short-term basis can get more information by calling 208-881-9585 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 542-6751.