Sales tax should apply equally

Some of the arguments made against any and all forms of taxation become a little ridiculous after a while.

So it is with objections from the left and the right on a proposal by the Mississippi Department of Revenue to make those who rent rooms or vacation properties online to collect sales and lodging taxes.

Democratic state Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford, who first brought this proposal to the public’s attention, says that this is just another attempt by Republicans to shift the state’s tax burden from businesses to the middle class and below. Russ Latino, state director for the conservative Americans for Prosperity, concurred, at least in part, saying that taxing Airbnb, VRBO and Home Away rentals would appear to be “hurting the little guy.”

Although there may be some legal argument as to whether the Department of Revenue can make this policy change without legislative action, the merits of taxing such short-stay rentals is clear.

People who advertise to rent out their homes or apartments for short-stay guests are competing against hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. If individuals want to make money off the “sharing economy,” they should also share in the responsibility of collecting the same tax as do the businesses into whose bottom line they are cutting.

Furthermore, the suggestion that it’s just “working stiffs” who engage in these online marketplace rentals is misleading. It has also become a profitable way for landlords to make money in tourist areas, opting for short-term rentals rather than long-term ones with the residential property they own.

Many states where these vacation rentals were established earlier than in Mississippi require the proprietors to collect and remit sales tax. It’s just a sensible accommodation to the changing way that commerce is conducted to do the same here.

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