With tens of thousands of people expected to travel to Idaho to witness the total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, more than a few Idaho home- and landowners are already planning to cash in on the once-in-a-lifetime event by leasing out accommodations. Officials at the Idaho State Tax Commission, however, are offering words of caution for one-and-done landlords.
"A lot of people are unaware that even just by renting a room for a night, you still have to collect [Idaho sales and tourism] tax," said Renee Eymann, the tax commission's Public Information Officer. "We really want to make sure people know what's required."
Those taxes include a 6 percent Idaho sales tax and an additional 2 percent Idaho tourism tax. Depending on which Idaho community the would-be landlord lives in, additional local sales or auditorium district taxes could apply. For example, auditorium district taxes are an additional 5 percent.
"Yes, technically, they have to collect that tax. Renters should be registering with the Idaho Secretary of State's office and ultimately collecting the auditorium tax," said Boise Centre Executive Director Pat Rice. The Boise Centre is one beneficiary of tax revenue in the Greater Boise Auditorium District, which cuts across most of the Boise metro area. "That said, it would still be up to the Secretary of State's office to enforce the issue if someone is not collecting that tax."
The state tax commission is poised to penalize anyone who doesn't follow the rules.
"If people are caught renting or selling items without collecting their taxes, they will have to pay the initial taxes plus interest," said Eymann. "Plus, they'll be fined a penalty."
The additional interest on uncollected tax is accumulated at a rate of 3 percent, and the penalty for not collecting or paying taxes is another 5 percent.
If Idaho home- or landowners are only renting during a one-time event, such as the upcoming eclipse, they can apply for a temporary tax permit, available online at tax.idaho.gov.
Lacey Schotts of Idaho Falls said she was still coming up to speed on the procedure of temporarily renting out her eastern Idaho home during the eclipse.
"Actually, this is technically the second time that we're renting out our home, but the first time it was just to a friend," she said. "We called around to area motels and hotels to figure out some pricing. I think renting out the house for $800 a night is a little ridiculous, but we're still renting it lower than some of our friends."
Schotts said she requires a 2-night minimum stay and a $500 refundable deposit. In her Craiglist description of her offer, she wrote that hotels in her area were renting out single rooms for $500 a night, so she felt it was reasonable to charge $800 a night for a 3-bedroom house.
Another Idaho Falls homeowner, Joanne Provencher, who is renting out part of her home on Craigslist, said she listed her basement two weeks ago.
"We decided we had the perfect private basement," said Provencher. "Our space will sleep up to six people and it includes breakfast. We'll see how it goes."
Provencher is renting out the basement for $350 per night for a 2-day minimum stay. She added that she was well aware of the need to collect the proper taxes.
Communities across Idaho are preparing for the solar eclipse, which is expected to cross into the western border of the Gem State at approximately 10:10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, and leave the state on the eastern border at approximately 12:48 p.m. Kerry Hammon, spokeswoman for the city of Idaho Falls, said as many as 300,000 to 500,000 visitors could come into eastern Idaho in the 48-hour period surrounding the eclipse.