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TOT/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. PDF icon 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. Effective Sept. 1, 2016, the TMD assessment is levied on lodging businesses with 70 or more rooms. For the period Jan. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2016, the TMD assessment was levied on all lodging businesses.   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 12.5%, 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 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?

Applications for a Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate may be submitted online.  Operators will receive the certificate via email once the application is processed.  The number provided on the certificate is the account number associated with the lodging business and should be referenced on all remittances and/or correspondence submitted to our office.  Operators may also complete and submit the PDF icon Application for Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate via email to the Office of the City Treasurer at sdtot@sandiego.gov.

I rent out a room in my condo via an internet website; is my rental subject to the TOT and TMD assessment?

If you are renting a room for less than one calendar month, the rental is subject to the TOT. Beginning on Sept. 1, 2016, the TMD assessment is only applicable to lodging businesses with 70 or more rooms, and therefore, the rental would not be subject to the assessment; however, if the room was rented from Jan. 1, 2013 through Aug. 31, 2016, the TMD assessment of 0.55 percent was applicable.

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 619-615-1530 or sdtot@sandiego.gov.

I rent my personal residence (or portion of) to Transients.  Other than the TOT, is there any other tax or fee that I need to remit to the City?

Property owners who rent out all or a portion of their property for more than 6 days in a calendar year are responsible for remitting Rental Unit Tax to the City of San Diego. 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.shtml

I have a neighbor that is renting his/her residence to Transients.  I don't think they are collecting/remitting the TOT.  What can I do?

Contact the Office of the City Treasurer's TOT/TMD Administration desk at 619-615-1530 or sdtot@sandiego.gov 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, if applicable, the 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 USA.gov (link is external). You may also find the  PDF icon TOT Exemption Chart helpful. Once verified, the guest must complete the  TOT Exemption form; the operator must sign the PDF icon TOT Exemption form and retain the completed form for audit purposes. Also note, non-profit companies and state officials (other than California) traveling on state business are not exempt from the TOT and TMD assessment.

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 penalties?

No, we do not have the authority to waive penalties; penalties are governed by PDF icon SDMC §35.0116 .

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 for periods prior to Sept. 1, 2016 (EXCEL)  sample summary return for period after Sept. 1, 2016 (Excel) ). Please ensure the summary return includes monthly totals per property and the corresponding Transient Occupancy Registration 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 answers to frequently asked questions 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 PDF icon Article 5: Transient Occupancy Tax code and/or PDF icon Article 1, Division 25: San Diego Tourism Marketing District Procedural Ordinance of the San Diego Municipal Code for the applicable law.