Given the success of Uber and Lyft ride-share tech companies (or what are called “transportation network companies”) more and more cities, towns, and municipalities have looked for ways to extract tax dollars from them. Now, Oakland is set to consider a way to earn revenue from riders using Uber, Lyft, or any other transportation network company that serves Oaklanders.
Oakland At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan plans to introduce to the City of Oakland Rules and Legislation Committee legislation (Thursday’s meeting was cancelled today) that has a long name, but no nickname: A Resolution On The City Council’s Own Motion Submitting To The Voters At The Statewide General Election On November 6, 2018, A Proposed Ordinance To Impose A General 50 Cent Per Ride Tax On Passengers Of Transportation Network Companies; And Directing The City Clerk To Take Any And All Actions Necessary Under Law To Prepare For And Conduct The November 6, 2018 Statewide General Election. (Here’s the link to the 76-page memo and proposed resolution.)
Let’s call it The Uber Tax.
Here’s what Councilmember Kaplan’s press release reads:
Tomorrow, the Rules and Legislation Committee will hear Councilmember Kaplan’s ballot measure proposal to tax Transportation Network Company (TNC) trips, generating important revenue for public services and infrastructure. The Rules Committee beings at 10:45 am at Oakland City Hall, Council Chambers, 3rd Floor. (Zennie62Media note: Rules Committee is cancelled for June 14th. The proposal has been reset for the June 26th Oakland City Council Finance Committee Meeting.)
Kaplan’s proposal to tax Transportation Network Company (TNC) trips, which can be read here, would impose a 50-cents per pickup charge on TNC trips originating within the City of Oakland, and authorize City Council to adopt by Ordinance reductions in the rate, such as for “pool” (multi-user) trips, low-income passengers, and late night rides. Currently, TNC trips do not pay taxes to the city of Oakland. Other jurisdictions have begun to impose fees and/or taxes on the trips of TNCs. This is similar to the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) that is collected and remitted by Airbnb from hosts, in which the company collects and remits the tax to the City.
Kaplan says: “I have been encouraging Oakland to ensure tax fairness and adequate revenue for vital public needs, by working to make sure that we tax those goods/services that have not been paying taxes. Using an internet app to provide a good or service should not allow those businesses to avoid paying taxes while the rest of the community pays. We have successfully fought for fair tax collection for short-term residential rentals, cannabis businesses, and others who were not paying taxes previously – to help ensure public services are funded. The proposed TNC per-trip tax of a maximum of 50 cents per ride, is the same amount charged in Portland, Oregon, and less than the amount charged in Chicago. We are also proposing that shared “pool” trips pay a lower rate. Many other jurisdictions throughout the United States do put a charge on TNC trips. If adopted, the City Council would have authority to amend or reduce the tax, but not to increase it.”
Uber and Lyft already have special airport rates. With the imposition of taxes, one has to ask to what degree the user fees become regressive: that is, easier for higher income Oaklanders to afford, versus middle and lower income Oaklanders? That question is not directly addressed in the resolution report, but Kaplan does note the Oakland City Council can reduce the 50 cent per ride rate, but not increase it.
Kaplan texted this response to Zennie Abraham of Zennie62Media:
“That’s why we proposed reduced rate for senior / low-income and reduced rate for shared / pool trips. The 50 cent rate would be lower than other cities, like Chicago too,” Kaplan says.