For several years, all lodging facilities in Pocahontas County have paid a hotel/motel tax which is collected by the Sheriff’s office and doled out by the county commission to various groups and organizations in the county, including public libraries and fire and rescue departments.
Whether it’s condos at Snowshoe, B & Bs throughout the county or a cabin – all overnight rentals are subject to hotel/motel tax. This includes venues that are advertised and rented through online services such as AirBNB, Travelocity and VRBO.
Rental property owners who use online booking services have been responsible for remitting hotel/motel tax collected from their guests. But, starting January 1, 2022, online booking services will have the hotel/motel tax added to the online listing.
Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Cara Rose explained that the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill in 2021 that requires all online lodging rental services to add the lodging tax – hotel/motel tax – to each listing of a rental in the state.
“Right now, homeowners have to pay direct to the courthouse – to the sheriff – their six percent and they need to take it out of their revenue stream,” she said. “That’s how it works right now. What’s going to happen January 1, in addition to those line items [on the listings], lodging tax is going to be added.”
Prior to this piece of legislation, it was up to the property owner to collect and remit the lodging tax to the sheriff. Come January, the six percent tax will be added to the listing, in addition to the rate and state sales tax.
“It makes it transparent for the guest, number one,” Rose said. “And number two, it makes it easier for the property owner who only uses AirBNB or VRBO, because they will no longer collect and remit state sales tax and lodging tax. But they need to make sure that it’s being done on their behalf because it’s still their responsibility, even though they no longer will have to actually write the check.”
Instead, the hotel/motel tax will come directly from AirBNB, VRBO or Travelocity.
“It’s a good thing,” Rose said. “I think it will generate more hotel/motel tax.”
Rose explained that rentals using online services will not have to add the tax to their listing – it will be done automatically by the company – but they should check to make sure it is added by January 1, 2022, just to be safe.
“Anybody who is a host will see it on their listing come January 1, which means the guests will also see it which is great because it makes it transparent, and that’s really important,” she said.
While it will seem cut and dried, Rose said there may be some confusion as to where the hotel/motel tax goes.
Most of the hotel/ motel tax collected goes to the county, but lodging facilities within the town limits of Marlinton can send the tax to either the county or the town of Marlinton.
“I don’t believe that AirBNB, for instance, has asked hosts ‘where does your current hotel/motel tax go?’ Rose said. “So let’s say somebody has a piece of property here in Marlinton. They have the choice. They can actually send it to the county or to the town. Most people send it to the town.
“But if I live in 24954 in Edray, and I’m on AirBNB – my tax goes to the county for sure – but how’s AirBNB going to know if it goes to the town 24954 versus the county, because they’ve not asked the host,” she continued. “I’ve talked to a couple of hosts and they’ve had no communication to them.”
To ensure the hotel/motel tax goes to the correct office for the rentals in the 24954 zip code, Rose said those hosts should reach out to AirBNB or the other services they use and designate where the tax should go.
With the change, Rose said she is optimistic that it will increase the amount of hotel/ motel tax dollars collected in Pocahontas County, which will benefit a lot of organizations in the community.