Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)/Tourism Marketing District (TMD)
Frequently Asked Questions
Purpose and Intent
It is the purpose and intent of the City Council that there shall be imposed a tax on Transients. San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) §35.0101.
What is TOT?
The City of San Diego taxes the occupancy of any structure or any portion of any structure. TOT is calculated as a percentage of the rent for the occupancy of a structure or any portion of the structure. The law requires that Operators collect the tax from Transients. Operators hold TOT revenues in trust and remit them to the City Treasurer every month. If the Operator fails to collect the tax, the Operator is liable to the City for the amount of the tax due on the amount of taxable rent for the occupancy of the structure or any portion of the structure as if the Transient had paid the tax.
What is a Transient?
A Transient is any person that rents any structure or any portion of any structure for less than one month.
What is the TMD assessment?
The purpose of the TMD assessment is to promote events and tourism in the City of San Diego. The TMD assessment is levied on the Operator of the lodging business. The Operator may elect to pass the TMD assessment on to the Transient.
Can the TOT and TMD assessment be combined on the guest folio (as 11.05%, for example) and reported as a combined total to the City?
No. TOT is a tax collected from the Transient and the TMD assessment is levied on the Operator of the lodging business. The TMD assessment may be passed on to the Transient but must be shown as a separate line item on the folio/receipt. The TOT and TMD assessment must also be reported separately on the monthly return submitted to the City.
How do I apply for a certificate number?
Complete and submit the Application for Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate (PDF). General instructions are provided in the application document.
I rent out a room in my condo via an internet website; is my rental subject to the TOT and TMD assessment?
Yes, if you are renting the room out for less than one calendar month this rental is subject to the TOT and TMD assessment. Any structure or any portion of any structure that is rented out is subject to the TOT and TMD assessment. The method used to advertise and/or book rentals, whether through a property management company, an online service (such as VRBO, AirBNB, or Homeaway), is not a determining factor. The SDMC requires Operators and/or Owners to obtain a Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate if renting to a Transient. This certificate number is used when remitting the TOT and TMD assessment to the City. For additional questions, please contact our office at (619) 236-6647 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I rent my personal residence (or portion of) to Transients. Other than the TOT and TMD assessment, is there any other tax or fee that I need to remit to the City?
It depends. A property is not subject to Rental Unit Tax if the residence is owner occupied; in the case where an owner is renting a portion of their residence, Rental Unit Tax would not apply. If a property in its entirety is rented (e.g. home or condo) for more than six (6) days in a calendar year, it is subject to Rental Unit Tax. Rental Unit Tax is assessed annually, on a calendar year basis, upon anyone who owns, operates, or manages the rental of any residential real estate. This includes single family residences, multiple family residences, mobile homes, trailers, apartments, bungalows, hotels, motels, and any property advertised or otherwise held out for lease or rent during the calendar year. For more information, visit: www.sandiego.gov/treasurer/taxesfees/btax/index.shtml
I have a neighbor that is renting his/her residence to Transients. I don't think they are collecting/remitting the TOT and TMD assessment. What can I do?
Contact the Office of the City Treasurer's TOT Administration desk at (619) 236-6647 or email@example.com and provide us as much information as possible (e.g. address of rental, owners name and contact information)
Are cleaning fees taxable?
It depends on the nature of the charge. If the fee is non-refundable, it is part of what the guest pays for occupancy (i.e. rent) and is therefore subject to the TOT and TMD assessment. Conversely, if the cleaning fee is fully refundable with funds withheld only for specific damages, it is not subject to the TOT and TMD assessment.
How do I determine if my short-term guest is exempt from the TOT and TMD assessment?
The guest must provide official government business travel orders and a qualifying picture ID. You can verify if their government agency is listed on LSU Libraries Federal Agency Directory. You may also find the TOT Exemption Chart (PDF) helpful. Non-profit companies and State officials (other than California) traveling on state business are not exempt from the TOT and TMD assessment. Once verified, the guest must complete the TOT Exemption form (PDF); the operator must sign the TOT Exemption form and retain for audit purposes.
I just became aware that my property is subject to the TOT and TMD assessment. I am voluntarily coming forward to get caught up on taxes/assessments owed. Can you waive the penalties?
No, we do not have the authority to waive penalties; penalties are governed by SDMC §35.0116(a) (PDF).
As a Property Management company, do I have to remit a return for each property I manage?
No, property management companies do not have to remit a separate return for each property they manage. Property management companies may elect to remit their return information on a summary return (sample summary return (PDF)) or (sample summary return (EXCEL)). Please ensure the summary return includes monthly totals per property and the corresponding TOT certificate numbers.
How do I remit my TOT and TMD assessment return?
There are three ways to pay: online, by mail, or in person.
These FAQs are presented for general guidance only. They do not provide specific advice about a particular set of facts and may not be relied upon as a defense to a complaint alleging any violation. Please refer to Article 5: Transient Occupancy Tax code (PDF) and/or Article 1, Division 25: San Diego Tourism Marketing District Procedural Ordinance (PDF) of the San Diego Municipal Code for the applicable law.