Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO have changed the way vacationers travel. More and more guests are choosing to rent private homes rather than book hotels. With a bounty of popular destinations including Charleston and Harpers Ferry National Park, The Mountain State offers prospective short-term rental hosts the opportunity to bring in extra income and meet new people.
But new income opportunities bring new tax implications. Like hotel, motel, and B&B stays, short-term rentals in Alaska may be subject to tax. Tax authorities expect short-term vacation rental hosts to collect applicable short-term rental taxes from their guests and remit them to the proper authorities.
Failure to comply with tax laws can result in fines and interest penalties. These may not catch up with short-term rental operators in the short term, but the sharing economy is increasingly being placed under the proverbial microscope. It’s recommended that you address compliance before tax authorities address it for you.
Avalara has put together this guide to help you comply with Alaska 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.
Disclaimer: No short-term vacation rental tax guide is a substitute for professional tax advice. Consider it 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 Alaska tax laws.
Short-term Rental Tax Basics
When you start operating a short-term rental, you may not have experience with lodging taxes, but you are probably familiar with income tax. It’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Income taxes are reported and paid annually to the federal and many state governments on “taxable” income, which is income after allowed expense deductions. You pay this tax directly to the government.
In contrast, a lodging tax on a short-term rental is a percentage of the cost of your guest’s stay that is added to the price of the bill. The guest pays the tax, but you are responsible for collecting the tax and paying it to the proper tax authority.
Taxes on short-term rentals can be known as sales tax, occupancy tax, lodging tax, bed tax, tourist tax, and more. In West Virginia, the total tax rate you charge your guest is made up of many different taxes required by the state and/or local entities such as counties, cities, and towns.
What is the definition of “short-term rental” in West Virginia?
Short-term rentals in West Virginia are defined as lasting fewer than 30 consecutive days. Guests staying longer than this should not be charged short-term rental taxes. It is important to note that this definition may vary from location to location. Check with your local tax authority for the most up-to-date information.
Who is required to collect and file taxes on short-term rentals in West Virginia?
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 West Virginia authorities. You may be the property owner, a renter subletting a room, a third-party property management firm, or other party.
Location is key to compliance
The location of your rental is a crucial piece of information for short-term rental tax compliance. Your address will determine which tax jurisdictions you are required to report to, which taxes you need to collect, and your tax rates.
You can use our lodging tax lookup tool to get a rate report specific to your West Virginia 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 Authorities
Before you can begin collecting taxes on your short-term rental in West Virginia, you are legally required to register with the West Virginia State Tax Department, with one registration per short-term rental location. You can register online. When you register, you will receive a business registration certificate as well as instructions on filing your lodging taxes.
You may also be required to register with local tax authorities. Be sure to check with them for details.
Do I need to form an LLC?
In West Virginia, you do not need to form an LLC in order to register with tax authorities.
Local short-term rental regulations
Short-term rental operators in West Virginia should be aware of local regulations that apply to them, including rules covering:
- Permits, licenses, and registration
- Neighborhood notification
- Building and housing standards
Homeowner Associations (HOA) located in West Virginia may also have specific rules regarding vacation rentals. As a member, it’s your responsibility to be aware of the association’s policy. It’s important to review this information to understand any restrictions or limitations on short-term vacation rentals.
Other rules and regulations associated with leases/subletting or condo/co-op rules may apply to your situation. A good place to start is by reviewing your signed lease and speaking with your landlord or property manager.
Collecting Short-term Rental Tax
Once you’re registered with tax authorities, you are ready to start collecting lodging tax, which you’ll add to your guest’s bill when they pay for their stay.
Which taxes apply to West Virginia short-term rentals?
In West Virginia, a number of different lodging taxes may apply to your short-term rental, depending on your location. These can include:
|Tax Name||Filed and Remitted To|
|State sales tax||West Virginia State Tax Department|
|Local sales tax||West Virginia State Tax Department|
|Local occupancy tax||Local tax authority|
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 important to make sure you have the latest rate to avoid over- or undercharging your guests and running into compliance issues. State and local tax authorities should have the latest rates posted. You can also use our lodging tax lookup tool to find the right rates.
What charges are taxable?
In West Virginia, all charges for lodging, sales of property, or services are subject to sales 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 sales taxes.
What happens when my short-term rental platform (such as Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO) collects taxes for me?
Before collecting any short-term rental tax from your guests, you need to be aware of whether any taxes have already been collected for you. Some vacation rental platforms, including Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO, collect short-term rental taxes for hosts when the listing is booked. However, platforms do not collect taxes in all locations, and they may not collect all the state and local taxes that hosts owe.
At the time of this guide’s publication, Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO do not collect sales and lodging taxes for West Virginia hosts.
Are guests ever exempt from taxes?
There are situations in which you aren’t required to collect lodging taxes in West Virginia. For example, a guest who rents for a long term rather than a short term will be exempt from short-term lodging taxes. In West Virginia, accommodations purchased by buyers including nonprofit organizations, schools, churches, federal or state agencies, federal or state chartered credit unions, regional transit authorities, county ambulance authorities, and nonprofit public health care corporations may be exempt from sales taxes. Local tax authorities may have different rules for exemptions from local occupancy taxes. Guests may be required to present exemption certificates.
Filing Short-term Rental Tax Returns
After you’ve collected taxes from your guests, it’s time to file your tax returns with the West Virginia State Tax Department and local tax jurisdictions. In West Virginia, you can file short-term rental tax returns online. In order to file, you will need to enter information on how much you charged for your rentals. You’ll also need to pay the tax amount due, usually via check or electronic transfer. The West Virginia State Tax Department 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 will be assigned a filing frequency and due dates when you register with the tax authority. At the state level, annual, quarterly, and monthly due dates are as follows:
|Filing Frequency||Due Date|
|Annually||Due the 20th of the month following the close of the filing period.|
|Quarterly||Due the 20th of the month following the close of the filing period.|
|Monthly||Due the 20th of the month following the close of the filing period.|
We recommend contacting your local tax authority if you have any questions about local lodging tax due dates.
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 West Virginia State Tax Department?
Yes. Short-term rental operators registered with the West Virginia State Tax Department are required to file returns each assigned filing period, regardless of whether you had any short-term rental income or any short-term rental taxes were collected. 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 directly to the consumer, 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 local tax laws. Failure to register with tax authorities and file short-term rental tax returns in West Virginia on time may result in late fees, interest payments, and in extreme cases, legal action.
I have been offering short-term rentals without collecting lodging tax. What options do I have?
If you’re already operating a short-term rental but are not collecting short-term rental taxes, you may be in violation of West Virginia 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia State Tax Department. 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 transient occupancy tax filing?
Yes. Many short-term rental hosts in West Virginia file several state and local lodging tax returns every year. For many, filing solutions such as MyLodgeTax can relieve this burden.