Business Registration & Tax* Obligation Questions (see FAQs further below for items not related to taxes or business registration)
Q: What if I want to include the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), also known as a hotel tax, as part of my rental fee? Am I allowed to do that?
A: The party that receives the rent payment adds the TOT to the rent and collects both at the same time. To calculate TOT, multiply the rent charged by 14%. The party receiving payment from the guest must provide a receipt. The receipt must separately state the amount of TOT collected.
Q: What if I want to add a service fee to the rental price?
A: If you add a service fee, then it is also subject to TOT. The TOT you collect will be 14% of the guest’s payment plus the service fee. For example, if a guest is charged $110, plus a $20 “service fee,” the taxable rent is $130. The TOT would be 14% of $130, which is $18.20.
Q: What if the website company I am using charges me a fee or commission? How does affect calculation of TOT?
A: Arrangements between a host and a website company do not affect calculation of TOT. TOT is calculated based on the amount paid by the guest. The obligation to submit the full amount of TOT owed applies jointly to the host and the website company.
Following up on the last example, suppose an agreement exists between a website company and a host that the website company will retain 20% of the $110 charge ($22) as a “commission” on the rental transaction, and the website company will also retain the $20 service fee. Therefore, the website company retains $42 and passes along $88 to the host. The rent charged to the guest is still $130, regardless of how the website company and the host have agreed to divide those funds. The TOT is still 14% of $130: $18.20. The full amount of rent received ($130) must be reported on San Francisco TOT filings. When a host uses a website company that does not fulfill this obligation, the host remains responsible for TOT reporting and remitting obligations. In this example, the host would report $130 rent received – not $88 – and would remit $18.20 in TOT.
Q: What if I use a hosting platform that is not a Qualified Website Company to advertise my rental unit?
A: You are responsible for collecting the TOT and remitting it to the Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector.
If you use a non-QWC platform to advertise your unit and the platform collects guests’ payments before forwarding them to you, then both you and the platform are jointly responsible for collecting the TOT and making sure that the Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector receives the TOT paid by the guest. The Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector may collect the TOT plus interest and penalties, from either operator – the website company or the host.
Q: Is there any way for a host who works with a non-QWC to avoid having to deal with collecting TOT, getting a Certificate of Authority, and submitting monthly TOT filings?
A: If you earn $40,000 or less from short-term rental income per year, then you can apply to be a Small Operator. As a Small Operator, you can file and pay the TOT annually by January 31. If you earn more than $40,000 per year, then you must obtain a Certificate of Authority and pay the TOT on a monthly basis.
Q: What if I don’t know how to estimate the amount I will earn at the time that I register as a business?
A: You should provide your best estimate. If you begin as a Small Operator ($40,000 or less per year) but your rent collected exceeds $40,000, you will need to contact the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office to update your filing and payment schedule, and obtain a Certificate of Authority.
Q: What if I want to change or update the information I submitted on my Business Registration Application or the questions about my tax filing status?
A: Submit a request with the information you need to update.
Q: What if I’ve already registered and paid TOT before Airbnb became a Qualified Website Company?
A: Update your account information so that you stop getting monthly “reminders to file,” and get notified about refunds for registration fee and TOT already submitted.
Q: What information is public?
A: A public list of registered business locations in San Francisco is maintained by the Office of Treasurer-Tax Collector, including business locations that have been sold, closed, or moved out of San Francisco. The following information you submit as part of your business registration application will be available online at data.sfgov.org:
- Business Account Number
- Owner Name
- DBA “Doing Business As” Name
- Location Address(es)
- Business Start/End Date
- Mailing Address
- NAICS code (The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy)
Q: What if I started my short-term rental business a few years ago?
A: The application for a new business registration will ask you for your start date. If you owe TOT for any prior periods, the Treasurer and Tax Collector will contact you with instructions for how to file and pay.
Q: What if I received a letter from the Treasurer and Tax Collector about hosting, but I am no longer in business?
A: Anyone who operates a business in San Francisco (including hosts) must register. If you have already stopped operation, you may register and submit a close of business form at the same time. If you owe registration fees or TOT for any prior periods, the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office will contact you with instructions for how to file and pay.
Q: What if I declare that I use a QWC exclusively but then decide to list my unit on another platform or rent to a friend?
A: Submit a request with the information you need to update. Make sure to include your Business Account Number and email address in your request.
Q: What if I receive rent for stays that are 30 days or longer?
A: Rent for stays that are 30 days or longer are not taxable. TOT only applies for rent received for stays that are less than 30 days. You do not need to include stays that are 30 days or longer in any TOT filings or payments.
*Please note the information provided here is only applicable to local transient occupancy (hotel) taxes and does not include potential State or Federal taxes. In addition, separate business personal property taxes are administered by the Office of the Assessor-Recorder.
Other Short-Term Rental Questions
Q: What if I want to rent out more than one unit?
A: You can only rent out your residential unit, which is where you live for a minimum of 275 nights per year. If you own multiple properties, you can only rent out the residential unit in which you reside. You may have multiple listings for different rooms within the same residential unit (for example, different bedrooms).
You can rent out your unit for a maximum of 90 nights per year if you will not be present overnight at the time of your guests’ stay. You can rent out your registered unit for an unlimited number of nights only if you will also be living (staying overnight) in the unit during your guests’ stay.
Please note that hosting more than five (5) separate and unrelated persons/groups in a single-family home is generally not allowed, as it is considered to be an unauthorized change of use to “group housing” (similar to a boardinghouse, hostel, or some “hacker homes”). While “group housing” does exist in some residential neighborhoods, it requires specific approvals from both the Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection. In addition, group housing requires a minimum seven (7) day stay for each guest.
Q: What if I move and want to rent out my new place?
A: You must notify the Office of Short-Term Rentals, and the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector. Add a location to your business registration account with the Treasurer and Tax Collector.
You must have lived in your new unit for a period of 60 consecutive days. Once you have met the minimum residency requirement, you can register your new unit with the Short-Term Rental Registry. You will not have to do anything to take your old unit off the Registry; it will automatically be invalidated when you apply for your new registration, and the old unit will not be eligible for short term rental unless a new occupant reapplies.
Q: What if I no longer want to rent out my residence? Do I need to file anything to close my business?
A: You must close your business with the Treasurer and Tax Collector. Also notify the Office of Short-Term Rentals, by e-mail with the date you are closing your business, your name and address, at email@example.com.
Q: Do the registration requirements only apply if you use websites such as VRBO or Airbnb?
A: No, these rules apply whether or not you use a website (also known as a hosting platform), or other services (e.g. online bulletin boards such as Craigslist, word-of-mouth, print advertisements) to offer short-term rentals in San Francisco.
Q: Is there a limit on the number of guests I can have in my home at a given time?
A: Yes, there are two factors to consider. First, based on the type of dwelling, there are certain building/housing code limits that apply. Second, the operation of a short-term rental should not change the character of a dwelling into an unauthorized group housing use, akin to a boarding house or hostel. For example, while a large family may be hosted in a short-term rental (assuming compliance with building/housing codes), renting out the dwelling to more than five (5) separate and distinct persons/families at the same time would generally not be allowed. Please note that any construction, including adding kitchens or stoves requires permitting by the Department of Building Inspection and Planning Department.
Q: Do these rules apply to group housing? What about to existing commercial hotels?
A: No. Group housing is subject to separate approvals, as are hotels.
Q: Can I host short-term rentals in an industrial or retail building?
A: No. However if a portion of the building was already permitted (by Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection) for residential use, then only that specific area may be eligible.
Q: What happens if my landlord or my homeowners’ (or condominium) association prohibits me from hosting short-term rentals?
A: The City’s rules do not override any private agreements such as leases or association rules. Any enforcement of said rules or private agreements resides with the parties of the agreement (e.g. property owner or association), as the City does not enforce these private agreements.
Q: Can I host commercial events such as corporate meetings or weddings (as a business) at my home?
A: Generally, hosting of commercial events (renting out your home without overnight stays) is not subject to registration with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Please be aware that this type of activity would likely violate the Planning Code’s rules for allowed uses of dwelling units. For more information contact the Planning Information Center.
Q: Do these rules apply to corporate rentals for 30 days or more to the same guest?
A: No. Rentals for more than 30 nights are not considered a short-term rental and would not require certification with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Ensure that any dwelling units used for corporate rentals are not income-restricted units (e.g. below-market-rate or BMR units). It is also recommended that you review any homeowners’ or condominium association documents that may restrict such activity.
Q: How can I tell if my neighbor has registered with the City to host-short-term rentals?
A: While there is no publicly available centralized list of all approved short-term rental hosts, you can visit the San Francisco Property Information Map website to look up a specific address, then choose the “Planning Apps” tab on the right-hand side of the screen and scroll down to see if there is an approved “STR.” Approved applications are visible, however pending and denied applications are not shown.