As States Find Ways to Tax Uber, Florida Lawmakers Suggest Charging ‘Less Than Zero’


Uber points to dozens of states around the country that have adopted ridesharing legislation as proof it’s time for the remaining hold-outs to climb aboard the the Uber bandwagon.

The tactic seems to be paying off bigly in Florida. In fact, Uber is getting ready to pull off a “perfecta” of sorts. Of course Florida will codify the Uber business plan. The legislation will absolutely pre-empt local governments from regulating the popular car service. But in Florida, legislators want to do more.

Well, actually less. A lot less.

If legislation passes in its current form, Florida will become one of the first states to not only charge Uber nothing in terms of taxes, fees or licensing; but they will actually give them back millions in rebates.

When Uber passed legislation in Nevada, a company spokesman declared, “Nevadans are the winners today.” This glowing reaction despite the fact that Nevada charges Uber a 3% excise tax that will raise $19 million towards a new medical school at University of Nevada.

When Uber agreed to a deal in Maryland, they also agreed to a 0.25 cent per ride surcharge that would fund transportation programs for the disabled.

In Massachusetts, the new law collects $0.20 cents on every ride, that can not be passed on to passengers, to create a fund for infrastructure and job training. Despite the tax, an Uber spokesperson said, “We look forward to working with the Administration to implement the law to ensure it increases transportation options and economic growth.”

Maryland and Virginia billed Uber $100K. Small state Rhode Island will collect hundreds of thousands from the tech giant valued at $60 billion. And conservative South Carolina got one percent in licensing fees.

Florida? Not so much. Actually zero. A more accurate phrase would be “less than zero”.

The legislation charges Uber nothing and cancels millions in fees Uber is currently paying several local governments around the state.

Disability rights advocates had hoped the State would access and collect fees from Uber to bolster transportation funding for the mobility programs. “Given that Uber refuses to provide wheelchair service, it seemed logical and more than reasonable to access some sort of fee or surcharge to their service to fund disability programs”, said Roger Chapin, an executive with an Orlando transportation company in Orlando who runs more than 50 wheelchair accessible vehicles. “But this legislation actually charges Uber less than zero, despite Uber offering to pay one percent to the State last year to fund programs.”

A recent New York Times story summed up Uber’s business model as an attempt to, “seek total control even as they abdicate responsibility”.

“These platform companies are here to stay,” said Joe Kefauver, a policy expert offering advice to the Center for Policy in a Sharing Economy (CPSE). “But as Uber or Airbnb continue to divert business away from traditional tax generating companies, with no reliable tool to collect fees in the ‘peer to peer’ model, it is reasonable for states to seek revenue directly from the platform companies themselves.