Taxi companies accuse Uber, Lyft of not paying millions in excise taxes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When it comes to the state's general excise tax, Hawaii cab drivers say ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are getting a free ride.

Two measures moving through the state legislature would require both taxi and ridesharing drivers to display general excise tax certificates in their cars, an effort to force drivers on both sides to pay the tax.

"The state is missing out on a lot of income, they may be missing out on ten to twenty million dollars," said Dale Evans, president of Charley's Taxi.

An Uber spokesperson called the bills protectionist.

"This is another tactic by incumbent industries to drive out competition, instead of focusing on how to improve their product," said Taylor Patterson.

In Hawaii, most companies pay general excise taxes on the revenues they generate. In the case of Uber, the company shifts much of that burden onto its drivers.

The rideshare companies say that policy is in place because drivers are independent contractors, leaving it up to the drivers to pay the tax.

But state records, Evans says, show they rarely pay up. She checked lists of rideshare drivers against state records, finding few that even had excise tax licenses.

"We know from what the drivers are talking about among themselves that they said they're not paying, that they don't have to pay," Evans said.

We spoke with one prospective Uber driver, who said most drivers pay the tax.

"We should, we should pay for the general excise tax license. If you're making money, you might as well file for tax," said John Santos of Waipahu.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.