How do I start online reporting and payment of City of Houston hotel occupancy tax?

Online reporting and payment is available to Houston hotels and motels effective third quarter of 2013. The first step is to complete the hotel registration form. You can find this document under the "Forms" tab on the e-Service Center. You can also find a user friendly "how to use the online system" guide on the website for your quick reference. Our tax office will send your User ID and password to you after processing your hotel registration form. Contact our tax office by sending an email to hoteltax@houstonfirst.com if you require further information.

Who is required to report and remit the municipal hotel occupancy tax?

The tax must be reported and remitted by any individual or entity owning, operating, managing, or controlling a hotel within the corporate limits of the City of Houston. The term "hotel" includes motels, tourist homes, tourist courts, lodging houses, boarding houses, inns, rooming houses, or other buildings where rooms are provided for consideration of two dollars or more per day.

When are reports and payments due?

Reports and payments are due quarterly and must be received or postmarked by the last day of the month following the appropriate quarter:

1st Quarter (Jan.–Mar.) due by April 30th
2nd Quarter (Apr.–Jun.) due by July 31st
3rd Quarter (Jul.–Sep.) due by October 31st
4th Quarter (Oct.–Dec.) due by January 31st

A report must be filed for every quarter, even if there is no tax due.

What are the record keeping requirements?

Individuals and entities required to report and remit the tax must maintain the following records in a written or electronic format for at least four (4) years from the date of the transaction:

  • For each room rental, the check-in/check-out dates, the amount paid (including the state and local hotel occupancy taxes collected), and the method of payment;
  • Supporting documentation and certificates of exemption for guests who are exempt from the tax;
  • Banking records that identify all room rental revenue collected; and
  • Credit card records reflecting payments of room rentals.

For room rentals paid by cash, every person required to collect the tax must issue a customer an electronic or handwritten receipt that provides the date and time of the rental transaction, the room number, and the charges for room rental.

For handwritten receipts, every person required to collect the tax must issue the receipts in sequential, numeric order; retain a duplicate copy of the receipts; and mark spoiled receipts as void and retain such receipts as evidence of spoilage.

What forms of payment are accepted?

Currently you may pay by check, money order or cashier’s check. Online payment is available to Houston hotels and motels effective third quarter of 2013. All payments must be made payable to the City of Houston and mailed to the following address:

Houston First Corporation
Hotel Occupancy Taxes
P.O. Box 1409
Houston, TX 77251-1409

See File and Pay Taxes for more information.

What are the exemptions from the municipal hotel occupancy tax?

The City of Houston recognizes that certain hotel guests are exempt from the municipal hotel occupancy tax, including:

  • Federal government employees traveling on official business, if the guest completes a tax-exemption certificate.
  • Foreign diplomats, if the guest completes a tax-exemption certificate and presents a tax-exempt card issued by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Permanent residents, meaning guests who notify the hotel in writing of their intent to stay 30 or more consecutive days, are exempt from hotel occupancy taxes from the beginning of their stay, provided there is no interruption in payment for the room.
  • State of Texas employees who have been issued a special identification card stating that the holder is exempt from hotel occupancy tax, if the guest completes a tax-exemption certificate.

The City of Houston does not recognize State of Texas exemptions for educational, religious or charitable.

Who do I contact with questions?

Please send all questions to our tax office at hoteltax@houstonfirst.com

What is the breakdown of the overall Hotel Occupancy Tax rate (of 17 percent)?
  • 6% State of Texas, of which 0.5% tourism with balance to the general fund
  • 7% City of Houston (collected by Houston First Corporation)
  • 2% Harris County
  • 2% Harris County Houston Sports Authority (collected by Harris County)
What does this money pay for?

These funds go toward projects that benefit the business of conventions and tourism. In the last few years, this has ranged from the expansion of the George R. Brown Convention Center to funding 90 percent of the operations of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. All of these projects work to bring more visitors to Houston.

What issues are typically identified during a hotel occupancy tax audit?
  • Exemption mistakes
  • Missing or incomplete records
  • Records from a prior owner are not kept by new owner/management
  • Miscalculation of exempt revenue from long-term stays
  • Failure to request a no tax due certificate before the sale or purchase of hotel
  • Posting and mathematical errors
  • Lack of communication or preparation for an audit
What should I know before the start of a H.O.T. audit?
  • If you need to change information filed in an original tax report, please file an amended report.
  • Maintain records for the hotel from the prior/current owner within the last four (4) year period.
  • Do not commingle hotel funds with other funds.
  • Good communication and preparation are key factors throughout the audit process.
Do you have a physical address?

Although the post office box listed above is the preferred address for reports and payments, overnight deliveries and general correspondence may be sent to: Houston First Corporation, Hotel Occupancy Taxes, 701 Avenida de las Americas Houston, TX 77010.

When did Airbnb begin collecting and remitting the City of Houston’s municipal hotel occupancy tax?

On July 1, 2019, Airbnb began collecting and remitting the City of Houston’s municipal hotel occupancy taxes on behalf of all hosts for all bookings on the Airbnb website from that date forward. Hosts will no longer be responsible for collecting such taxes on Airbnb rentals and will not have an option to opt-out of collection by Airbnb.

Can Hosts who only offer short-term rentals through Airbnb close their hotel occupancy tax accounts with Houston First after July 1, 2019?

Yes. Hosts may close their municipal hotel occupancy tax account if, after July 1, 2019, they offer all of their short-term rentals through Airbnb. Hosts who do not close their accounts must file reports showing zero receipts. Hosts may still have reporting requirements for local hotel occupancy tax on Airbnb rentals within the county, or special purpose district that impose a hotel occupancy tax. If Hosts have further questions regarding local taxes, they should contact their local jurisdictions for more information. 

Do Hosts need to report Airbnb rental receipts or taxes collected to Houston First after July 1, 2019?

Hosts should not report any of their Airbnb rental receipts to Houston First on the City of Houston Hotel Occupancy Tax Report form for any Airbnb bookings made on or after July 1, 2019. Airbnb will report rental receipts and remit municipal hotel occupancy taxes to Houston First for its Hosts' rentals.

Are Hosts responsible for municipal hotel occupancy taxes collected on Airbnb rentals prior to July 1, 2019?

Yes. Hosts are responsible for collecting municipal hotel occupancy taxes and remitting to Houston First. Any bookings Hosts have through Airbnb prior to July 1, 2019, must be reported to Houston First.  Hosts who wish to submit payment for back taxes may do so by completing the City of Houston hotel occupancy tax form and mailing payment to the address included in the form.  

What if Hosts use non-Airbnb websites for their short-term rentals?

The collection and remittance of municipal hotel occupancy tax is required for all short-term rentals (unless an exemption applies). Although Airbnb is handling the tax for bookings on its site, Hosts are still required to collect and remit the tax for bookings made on non-Airbnb rentals.

Will Airbnb report to Houston First any personally identifiable information regarding the Hosts or Guests on its Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax Report?

No. Airbnb will not report any personally identifiable information regarding the Hosts or guests on its Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax Report to Houston First. Airbnb will only be reporting total receipts and total taxable receipts.