Policy Matters Ohio, a left leaning think tank, said based on the audit for one quarter, Uber would owe $13.5 million in taxes since July 2015 if it had to collect since then, and that figure also does not cover earlier operations or take into account the company’s growth.
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The dispute reflects the growing effort to figure out how to tax and regulate the “gig economy,” as companies like AirBnb and Uber are grabbing business from other more heavily taxed industries like taxis and hotels. Regulators are asserting that the states are being cheated on revenue by these startups, which look a lot like businesses the state is already collecting millions in taxes on.
In Uber’s case in Ohio, the company is arguing that it is not a transportation service provider but rather a “transportation network company.” Uber said in its notice of appeal, filed Nov. 6, that its employees don’t provide transportation services, because it is the contracted drivers, not the actual Uber employees, who are doing the transporting.
Uber also argues that collecting a sales tax on the services provided by the drivers violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
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The state in a Sept. 9, 2016 letter, told Uber that the meets the definition of a vendor of transportation services, which would have to pay the taxes in question. Uber set the prices, controlled the quality and drivers and received payment for services.
“Not only was the petitioner present at the taxable sale, the petitioner is the catalyst for the transaction,” the state wrote.