The European justice rules that Airbnb must provide data on the transactions of tourist flats if the tax authorities request it | Economy

File image of the headquarters of the Court of Justice of the European Union, in Luxembourg.
File image of the headquarters of the Court of Justice of the European Union, in Luxembourg.

Airbnb must provide information about tourist transactions carried out on its platform to the tax authorities of the Belgian region of Brussels-Capital. This was foreseen by a regional law approved in 2016, to which the vacation apartment platform opposed, alleging that this provision was contrary to community law. So when the Brussels-Capital region requested that information in 2017, Airbnb Ireland (the European parent company of the American technology company) twice objected to the request, which earned it nine fines amounting to 10,000 euros each. . However, between the first request and the second, the technology company also filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court of Belgium.

The Belgian magistrates, before deciding on the annulment of the norm, decided to send several preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) at the end of 2020. The consultation, basically, referred to whether it could be considered that the community directive on electronic commerce (Directive 2000/31), which is the one that applies to platforms that operate on the internet and in which Airbnb was protected, can be applied or not in tax regulations. And also if forcing the tourist accommodation platform to transmit transaction data may constitute an obstacle to the free movement of services protected by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The ruling of the Luxembourg court has been unfavorable to Airbnb’s arguments. In the first place, the judges point out that the provision to transmit the information “must be considered inseparable” from the regulations that collect it, and that this is of a fiscal nature. Therefore, it is excluded from the e-commerce directive. In fact, what Belgian regulations require is that tourist accommodation intermediaries provide the details of the operator and the details of the establishment, the number of overnight stays and the number of accommodation units that it has operated the previous year in order to collect the corresponding taxes. the owners. These charges do not apply to the intermediary, who is only required to keep that information for a time and transmit it when required.

Without discrimination

In addition, the ruling maintains that the provision equally affects any provider of real estate brokerage services, not only platforms that operate on the Internet. And for this reason it concludes that the norm is not discriminatory. The CJEU ruling does recognize that the legal obligation to provide information affects Airbnb more than other tourist accommodation intermediaries, but points out that it is “a reflection of the higher number of transactions” it carries out and “of its market share”. In any case, the judges add, “intermediaries such as Airbnb memorize the data in question” as part of the operation of their business, which means that this additional cost is “reduced”.

Finally, the CJEU does not see that the freedom to provide services within the Union is compromised by the fact that a rule obliges the intermediary to assume an extra cost in a certain place, provided that the aforementioned measure affects everyone equally. providers, “regardless of their place of establishment and the way in which they carry out the intermediation”. In short, he does not consider that there is any discrimination in this regard either. So, at the expense of what the Belgian Constitutional Court decides, the European justice sees no incompatibility between the community rules and the Belgian regional law that gave rise to the dispute.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.


Spokespersons for the technology company in Spain, asked about the ruling, point out that “Airbnb is a good partner for governments in terms of taxation.” In this regard, they add, the platform “has applauded the agreement of the EU Member States” that last year approved a new directive to establish “a common tax information framework for digital platforms.” Said directive, pending transposition in Spain and which is applied throughout the community territory (also in the Brussels region), supposes, according to the aforementioned sources, “a more coherent and standardized approach for the exchange of information throughout the EU”.

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