ATO has Airbnb users in its sights

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Tax experts have issued a warning to those using their homes for income, saying the Australian Tax Office has them in its sights. They are warning users of share services to be diligent in claiming rental income and not to claim false expenses.

Accounting firms have flagged property as the next target for the Australian Tax Office, following an education campaign by the ATO educating taxpayers about the implications of renting out a property.

The series of videos released last May highlighted informal accommodation website Airbnb specifically as an income revenue, targeting a growing number of the site's users across the country.

H & R Block Tax Communications Director Mark Chapman told SBS the educational campaign would soon be followed by more stringent audits on property income.

"What usually happens when the ATO puts out that kind of announcement, telling people how to treat certain things, they will normally follow that up with a compliance campaign," he said.

Next month, a report will be released from the Senate Inquiry into major players of the share economy such as Airbnb and Uber.

"It's not just a few people not declaring five thousand, it's thousands of people not declaring more than 10 thousand dollars."

University of Technology, Sydney tax avoidance expert Professor Roman Lanis told SBS there are thousands of people dodging tax - whether they were aware they were doing so or not.


"It's not just a few people not declaring five thousand, it's thousands of people not declaring more than 10 thousand dollars," he said.

However, accountants stress those who think can claim ignorance may receive an unpleasant surprise.

In January 2016, 1.8 million Australians owned an investment property according to the Australian Government.

As well as users of guest sharing sites, landlords lodging false expense claims is also on auditors' radar.

Among the items property owners can claim is damage to furniture used in a rented room, commercial cleaning of a rented area, food made available to a guest, professional photography for a listing, service fees and commissions charged by a share service.

“We encourage our hosts to comply with all Australian tax laws and pay all required taxes," Airbnb Australia spokesperson Dylan Smith said.

"Airbnb hosts earn an average income of just $7,100 renting out their homes occasionally to get extra income to pay down bills and pay off home loans. And while that doesn't sound like a lot of money to some, we know that supplemental income can often be life changing to many,”

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