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Sunday, February 5, 2017
Vacation Rentals: Tax Hike Bills on the Move in the Legislature
By Selected News Articles @ 6:47 PM :: 6617 Views :: Taxes, Tourism

The Hawaii Legislature opened in January and will run until May.

The HSTA is putting forth an amendment to the State Constitution in order to allow the State to impose a new tax upon vacation rentals.

There are 20 bills currently on the table dealing with vacation rentals and they boil down to four themes.

  1. Advertising Platforms (such as VRBO) can collect and remit taxes on behalf of operators (you).
  2. Travelers to Hawaii and people and companies who provide accommodation to the travelers should pay more in tax.
  3. People who rent out property on a secondary or accessory basis should be limited to renting out no more than 60 nights per year and owning no more than one or two properties.  (More on this below)
  4. Counties should be allowed to change zoning to eliminate transient vacation rentals.  This proposal comes up each year, but this year it only applies to the County of Kauai.


There are a number of proposals to increase the TAT from 9.5% to 13.5%.  There are also proposals to add additional taxes on top of the 13.5% to cover education, environment and housing (ie HSTA, UPW, and HGEA jobs).  There is also the proposal to amend the Constitutuin to create a State property tax.   


This bill is one of many dealing with the question of hosting platforms as tax collection agents.  It requires operators, to keep records (putting the onus of audit on the operator).  The bill provides for hosting platforms to de-list any advertiser (you) who does not comply with tax or zoning laws and requires the platforms to obtain attestation from you that you are in compliance with zoning laws. It provides for an increase of 4% in the TAT, giving Hawaii the distinction of the most expensive hotel tax in the country.  The bill also provides for the ability of counties to restrict zoning and phase out transient vacation rentals.

This bill also introduces the distinction between short term lodging and transient vacation rentals, discussed above.   The bill also limits the number of rentals any person, couple or company can own to one unit.  The bill also restricts the number of nights an operator can rent registered short-term rental lodging units to 60 per calendar year.

HB1471 / SB1087

These bills are similar to HB1470, but allows anyone, not just hosting platforms, to act as tax collection agents.  However, crucially, it does not have the language around increased taxes, limits on ownership and limits on the number of nights rentable in a year.  HB1471 hearing set for Feb 7 at 9AM.  SB1087 hearing set for Feb 10 at 2:30PM.

SB1281 / HB1242 / SB1202

This is similar in concept to the two bills described above.  SB1281 hearing set for Feb 10 at 2:30PM.   SB1202 hearing also set for Feb 10 at 2:30PM.  


This bill will allow counties to impose a surtax on the TAT, effective January 1, 2019.  This is in addition to the 4% increase in the TAT proposed in a number of bills this session.  The funds are to be used to fund housing.  HB546 hearing set for Feb 10 at 9:00AM. 

HB180 / SB686

This bill increases visitor taxes to help fund the education system in Hawaii.  The bill would apply a tax on residential investment property as well as on visitor accommodations.  HB180 is deferred until Feb 6.  SB686 was approved with amendments by EDU February 3, 2017.  Its next referral is WAM/JDU. 

Property Value                     Surcharge per $1000 of property value

Under $500,000                      $3.50

$500,000- $750,000                $4.50

$750,000-$1,000,000              $5.50

$1,000,000 - $2,000,000         $6.50

$2,000,000 and over               $7.50

So, if your property was worth $400,000, you would pay $1400 in residential property tax surcharge each year.  If your property was worth $2,000,000, you would pay $15,000.

In addition, there is proposed a nightly tax of $3.00 for rents up to $150 per night and $5.00 per night for rents over $150.  This is regardless of occupancy.  So the $400,000 property probably commands a rent of $150 a night on average, so 365*$5 = $1825, for a total tax of $3225.

The rate of tax, as a percentage of the rental rate decreases as the rental rates increase.  Lower valued properties are hit harder than the high end properties.

Currently, this type of tax is most likely not possible to implement in Hawaii, so they are proposing a constitutional amendment (SB683 & HB182) to allow the state to impose this tax.  This is the same tax which has been the subject of a legal battle in the City and County of Honolulu.

HB1453 / SB1143

This is another tax on tourists, this one being $20 per guest to fund environmental protection and conservation.  The wording indicates that a party of 4 would pay $80.

SB862 / HB1331

This bill allows for the phase out of single family transient vacation rental units in the counties with populations under 100,000, which is essentially Kauai.  The County of Kauai has put forward this bill every year for at least the past 5 years.  Every year it gets defeated.  By narrowing the scope to just that county, perhaps they think it will have a better chance.  SB862 passed PSM January 31.  Its next referral is CPH.


The preamble to the bill proposes moving the tax burden from residents to non-residents.  The bill, as currently drafted, doesn’t actually change the tax structure to affect non-residents. 


This bill has already garnered some media attention as it states that failure to register for TAT and GET is a class C felony.  For those who weren’t fans of Law and Order, a Class C felony is punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison. Class C felonies include crimes such as theft, possession of a controlled substance, second-degree statutory rape and first-degree involuntary manslaughter.

This bill also sets up a public database whereby anyone can look you up to see if you are properly registered.  This raises certain security and privacy concerns.


This bill applies TAT to rent and mandatory fees charged to guests.


This bill proposes to set up a committee to study transient accommodations in the State and provides for membership from vacation rental owners.


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