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The Tax Lives of Uber Drivers: Evidence from Internet Discussion Forums

Oei, Shu-Yi; Ring, Diane M.

In this Article, we investigate the tax issues and challenges facing Uber and Lyft drivers by studying their online interactions in three internet discussion forums: Reddit.com, Uberpeople.net, and Intuit TurboTax AnswerXchange. Using descriptive statistics and content analysis, we examine (1) the substantive tax concerns facing forum participants, (2) how taxes affect their driving and profitability decisions, and (3) the degree of user sophistication, accuracy of legal advising, and other cultural features of the forums.

We find that while forum participants displayed generally accurate understandings of tax filing and income inclusion obligations, their approaches to expenses and deductions were less accurate and more varied in sophistication and willingness to comply with tax law. Forum participants also frequently discussed whether driving was profitable and exhibited a range of awareness concerning how taxes affected profitability. Finally, while the forums contained a surprising degree of sophisticated and accurate tax and legal advice, they also contained many examples of inaccurate or confusing information. It is thus uncertain whether forum readers were able to successfully distinguish between accurate and inaccurate advice dispensed in the forums.

Based on our findings, we make tentative recommendations for effective tax administration in the ridesharing and related sectors, including use of industry-specific guidance, clarification of how existing tax rules apply to ridesharing, and guidance on Form 1099-K interpretation. We analyze the implications of our findings regarding taxes and profitability for Uber’s business model and its potential regulation. Finally, we discuss the possible impacts of targeted tax compliance initiatives on internet communities.

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Title
Columbia Journal of Tax Law

More About This Work

Academic Units
Law
Published Here
November 16, 2017
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