A consultant hired by La Plata County will conduct an audit of nontraditional lodging units in an effort to bring more vacation rental owners into compliance and more lodgers tax to the county.
Dolores-based company MUNIRevs was hired this week to take inventory of county units rented through websites such as Vacation Rentals by Owner and Airbnb. The study will cost $17,750, plus 30 percent of new revenues generated in the first quarter of the company’s year-long analysis.
The county, which budgeted about $50,000 for this purpose, will pay $11,750 for the first quarter, and $6,000 total for the next three.
MUNIRevs has conducted similar studies for Telluride and Mountain Village for more than five years.
“They’ve been performing this type of audit for years,” County Finance Director Diane Sorensen said. “Their communication plan is impressive.”
Currently, vacation rental owners in the county are required to pay a 2 percent lodgers tax, just like Durango rental owners, but the county does not keep a register of them.
County staff maintains that an audit will be an effective means of communicating policy to rental unit owners who may not be aware of the lodgers tax.
In the first quarter of 2016, the county collected $74,713 in lodgers tax, up from $43,979 returned in the first quarter of last year. Through May this year, the city of Durango collected $234,682 in lodgers tax, compared to $218,188 collected within that time frame in 2015.
“The whole alternative lodging phenomenon is a growing one. We’re seeing more people interested in doing that, and we’re finding the VRBOs and Airbnbs are more in resort areas than the city market, and we really don’t know how to quantify it,” said Bob Kunkel, executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.
“In the lodging game, everyone wants to play on a level playing field. If we knew how many there are in the county, they’d have a system where they can register themselves and pay the tax. Our initial research shows people rent their home out for a holiday weekend or something, and they don’t realize they’re putting themselves in business, and there might be rules and regulations. I don’t think it’s intentional. So maybe we can make a few bucks.”
Lodgers tax revenue is primarily spent on marketing to draw in more tourists.