To the Editor:
Senator Dan Wolf’s proposal to allow Massachusetts cities and towns to tax seasonal rentals (June 11, “Senator Wolf backs legislation to allow towns to tax vacation rentals”) is not a good idea for Martha’s Vineyard. At first look, this tax grab may seem attractive to local residents, as it appears to tax someone else, i.e. wealthy nonresidents who can afford it. In reality, this tax will be paid to a large extent by locals who occasionally rent their homes to help pay the extremely high real estate taxes on the Island. Here’s why:
It is assumed the burden of the proposed tax will fall on well-off individuals who summer on our beautiful Island. Unfortunately for Senator Wolf’s proposal, the large majority of these folks don’t rent, they own. Most owners who rent out their houses during the summer months are ordinary people, many of them Islanders doing the Island shuffle. They make little or no profit on the relatively modest rents they are able to charge, and are only trying to offset some of their costs, primarily taxes, so they can stay in their homes. If they could raise rents they would, but are unable to do so because the local rental market will not allow it. They are stuck with a fixed amount of income. The money for this new tax will have to come from somewhere. If it cannot come from rent increases, then the property owners themselves will have to dig into their own pockets to pay this new tax.
Don’t be fooled; if Senator Wolf’s proposed tax is implemented, most of the money will be paid by Island residents who can ill afford the extra expense.