Vacation rentals advertised on Airbnb and other online sites often operate without paying taxes, but MUNIRevs plans to change that for towns and cities across the country.
Erin Neer, a certified public accountant founded MUNIRevs in 2011. She signed up for the Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs to accelerate the growth of her company and launch a new product.
SCAPE is an intensive six-month program that provides an equity investment and mentoring to entrepreneurs to help them develop a product, launch it and find investors. It is supported by investors, local businesses and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Region 9, La Plata Economic Development Alliance, the city of Durango and the Small Business Development Center.
The program, founded in 2013, has launched 19 companies that employ more than 60 people.
At a showcase Wednesday at Fort Lewis College, the program invited investors and the public to hear pitches by local entrepreneurs. If any idea interests someone, they can choose to invest in the business. Neer was one of six company founders who presented their ideas.
MUNIRevs does automated licensing and tax collection for towns. It has eliminated 95 percent of the data entry done by government staff members.
While participating in SCAPE, Neer and her mentors identified a niche: automating the process for auditing vacation rental properties that were not paying taxes.
The new product, LodgingRevs, took the concept to the next level by designing a service to identify noncompliant properties, notify the owners and collect taxes for towns.
The notification that vacation rental owners receive directs them to a website branded with the town’s information and allows them to apply for a license and pay taxes online.
LodgingRevs software allows municipalities to track the company’s effectiveness and identify those vacation rentals that have not come into compliance.
MUNIRevs has signed up three current clients for the LodgingRevs service. The company expects to double the number of towns it serves from 10 to 20 this year, Neer said.
“The lodging tax is this really sexy point of entry,” she said.
Lodgers tax is also the most common locally administered tax around the country, and vacation rentals are a new problem that municipalities are just starting to deal with in many cases, she said.
The company’s goal is to add 30 towns a year for the next few years, she said.