Iowa vacation rental tax guide
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Airbnb and Vrbo have changed the way vacationers travel, with many guests choosing to rent private homes rather than book hotels. With a bounty of popular destinations including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Sioux City, the Hawkeye State offers prospective short-term rental hosts the opportunity to bring in extra income.
But new income opportunities bring new tax implications. Like hotel and B&B stays, short-term rentals in Iowa are subject to tax. Vacation rental hosts are required to collect applicable taxes from their guests and remit them to the proper authorities.
Failure to comply with state and local tax laws can result in fines and interest penalties. These may not catch up with you in the short term, but the sharing economy is under increased scrutiny, so it’s important to address compliance before tax authorities address it for you.
Avalara MyLodgeTax has put together this guide to help you comply with Iowa short-term rental tax laws. For more information on the tax rates and jurisdictions that apply to your rental’s specific location, use our lodging tax lookup tool.
No short-term vacation rental tax guide is a substitute for professional tax advice. Consider this an asset to help you understand and prioritize your vacation rental questions and concerns. Questions pertaining to specific situations or out-of-the-ordinary conditions are best solved with a certified tax professional familiar with Iowa tax laws.
Short-term rental tax basics
When you start operating a short-term rental, you might not have experience with lodging taxes, but you’re probably familiar with income tax. It’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Income tax is reported and paid annually to the federal government and many state governments on “taxable” income, which is income after allowed expense deductions. You pay this tax directly to the government.
Lodging tax on a short-term rental is a percentage of the cost of your guest’s stay that’s added to the price on the bill. The guest pays the tax, but you’re responsible for collecting and paying it to the proper tax authority.
What’s the definition of “short-term rental” in Iowa?
For tax purposes, short-term rentals in Iowa are defined as reservations of 90 consecutive days or less.
Who’s required to collect and file taxes on short-term rentals in Iowa?
If you collect payment from short-term guests renting out a room, apartment, house, or other dwelling, you’re likely responsible for collecting, filing, and remitting short-term rental taxes to Iowa tax authorities.
Location is key to compliance
The location of your rental is a crucial piece of information for short-term rental tax compliance. Your address determines which tax jurisdictions you’re required to report to, which taxes you need to collect, and the appropriate tax rates.
Use our lodging tax lookup tool to get a rate report specific to your Iowa rental’s address. The report includes the estimated total tax rate to collect from guests, number of required registrations, number and frequency of returns per year, and minimum number of rented days to qualify as a taxable stay.
It should be noted that tax rates and the rules governing them change frequently. Please consider your tax rate report to be informative rather than authoritative.
Registering with state tax authorities
Before you can begin collecting taxes on your short-term rental in Iowa, you’re legally required to register with the Iowa Department of Revenue. You can register online to receive a tax permit. If all your transactions go through a short-term rental marketplace that is collecting taxes for you, you are not required to register with the state or collect state lodging taxes.
Do I need to form an LLC?
In Iowa, you don’t need to form an LLC to register with tax authorities.
Local short-term rental regulations
Short-term rental operators in Iowa should be aware of the local regulations that apply to them, including rules covering:
- Permits, licenses, and registration
- Neighborhood notification
- Building and housing standards
Homeowner associations (HOAs), condominium communities, co-ops, and landlords may also have specific rules regarding vacation rentals. It’s your responsibility to be aware of short-term rental policies that apply to your property.
Collecting short-term rental tax
Once you’ve registered with tax authorities, you’re ready to start collecting lodging taxes, which you’ll add to your guest’s bill when they pay for their stay.
Which taxes apply to Iowa short-term rentals?
In Iowa, short-term rentals are subject to state and local hotel and motel tax.
|Tax name||File and remit to|
|State hotel and motel tax||Iowa Department of Revenue|
|Local hotel and motel tax||Iowa Department of Revenue|
Before you can begin collecting short-term rental taxes, you need to know the correct rate to charge. Rates can and do change frequently, so it’s critical to make sure you have the latest rate to avoid over- or undercharging your guests and running into compliance issues.
Our lodging tax lookup tool can give you a rate report specific to your Iowa address. The report includes the estimated total tax rate to collect from guests, required registrations, frequency of returns per year, and minimum number of rented days to qualify as a taxable stay.
What charges are taxable?
In Iowa, all charges related to the rental of accommodations are subject to hotel and motel tax. This includes items such as cleaning fees, pet fees, rollaway bed fees, extra person fees, etc. Fees that are refundable, such as damage deposits, are generally not subject to lodging taxes unless the host keeps the deposit.
If a guest is charged for other items when renting a room, the charges must be stated separately or the entire amount will be subject to the hotel and motel tax. If the host bills a lump sum for the room rental and taxable items or services, state and local sales taxes apply to the entire bill. If taxable items and services are separately stated from the room rental on the invoice, sales tax only applies to the non-accommodations items and services.
What happens when my short-term rental marketplace (such as Airbnb or Vrbo) collects taxes for me?
Before collecting any short-term rental taxes from your guests, you need to be aware of whether any taxes have already been collected for you. In Iowa, short-term rental marketplaces such as Airbnb and Vrbo are required to collect lodging taxes for you when the listing is booked. If taxes aren’t being collected for you, you’re responsible for collecting and remitting them to state tax authorities.
Are guests ever exempt from taxes?
There are situations in which you aren’t required to collect lodging taxes in Iowa. For example, a guest who rents for a long term rather than a short term is exempt from short-term lodging taxes. Lodging furnished to guests of a tax-exempt religious institution for a religious retreat or function and stays paid by direct federal funds are also exempt from hotel and motel tax.
Filing short-term rental tax returns
After you’ve collected taxes from your guests, it’s time to file your tax returns with the Iowa Department of Revenue. In Iowa, you can file returns online. The Iowa Department of Revenue allows credit card payments, but you may be charged convenience fees for this type of payment.
Take the time to double-check your returns prior to submitting. Simple mistakes such as typos, missing signatures, and incorrect tax information can lead to unwanted delays.
When do I need to file my returns?
You’ll be assigned a filing frequency and due dates when you register with the tax authority. For filing with the Iowa Department of Revenue, due dates for hotel and motel tax are as follows:
|Filing frequency||Due date|
|Quarterly||Due the last day of the month following the end of the filing period|
I didn’t rent my property during this filing period. Am I still required to file a tax return for my short-term rental with the Iowa Department of Revenue?
Yes. Short-term rental operators registered with the Iowa Department of Revenue are required to file returns each assigned filing period, regardless of whether you had any short-term rental income or collected lodging taxes. Such returns are commonly known as “zero dollar returns.” Local tax authorities may have their own requirements.
Are there penalties for filing taxes late?
Whether you choose to offer short-term rentals through a marketplace like Airbnb or Vrbo or directly to guests, you open the door to tax liability at the state and local level. As tax revenue is a major source of local funding, tax authorities are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to identify individuals and businesses not in compliance with tax laws. Failure to register with tax authorities and file short-term rental tax returns in Iowa on time may result in late fees, interest payments, and in extreme cases, legal action.
I’ve been offering short-term rentals without collecting lodging tax. What options do I have?
If you’re already operating a short-term rental but not collecting short-term rental taxes, you may be in violation of Iowa tax laws. Take the time to review your legal responsibility (with a tax professional, if necessary) and understand the risk of continuing to not collect tax.
Short-term rental hosts in Iowa may be able to take advantage of a voluntary disclosure agreement (VDA). A VDA offers an opportunity for hosts to proactively disclose prior period tax liabilities in accordance with a binding agreement with the Iowa Department of Revenue. VDAs are offered to encourage cooperation with state tax laws and may result in some or all penalty and interest payments being waived.
Are there options for outsourcing lodging tax filing?
Yes. Numerous short-term rental hosts in Iowa file several lodging tax returns every year. For many, filing solutions such as MyLodgeTax can relieve this burden.