In this blog post, I will discuss how the IRS has been dealing with a growing sector of our economy called the “sharing” economy (also known as the gig economy). Proponents of the sharing economy believe it promotes marketplace efficiency by enabling individuals to generate revenue from assets while the assets are not being used personally. For example, a vacation home owner may rent out her home while she is not using it. Airbnb (short-term home rentals) and Uber (shared car services) are two of the more prominent companies that facilitate a sharing economy.
If you’ve ever been picked up by an Uber driver or know someone who’s rented a room through Airbnb, then you are aware of the ‘sharing economy.’
In the past few years, the ‘sharing economy’ has become a targeted focal point for the IRS. Needless to say, they really want their “fair share” of this rapidly growing business segment.
The House Small Business Committee held a hearing today (May 24) (part 1 of 2) on “The Sharing Economy: A Taxing Experience or New Entrepreneurs.” Part 2 is scheduled for May 26 with National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson speaking. A focal point of the hearing per the posted testimony was difficulties freelancers face in the sharing economy because they don’t fully understand their tax obligations.
You have decided to take the plunge and become a driver for Uber, Lyft or some other rideshare program. Congratulations! You are now a small business owner and your tax return just got more complicated. The income you earn from Uber is taxable and must be reported on Schedule C of your 1040. However, you may deduct expenses incurred in earning this income.
I was surprised by the broad press coverage that a California Labor Commission ruling involving one ex-Uber driver (Berwick) received this past week (USA Today, 6/19/15; Los Angeles Times, 6/17/15;. New York Times, 6/17/15). This ruling (6/2/15) found that someone who drove using the Uber app for less than two months was an employee rather than a contractor. As such, under California Labor Code Section 2802, the employer must cover “all necessary expenditures” of the employee in carrying out their duties or obeying the directions of the employer. So, key to this expense reimbursement rule is that the worker must be an employee.
In the California Labor Commission ruling, the driver says she drove 6468 miles in the 49 days she worked and incurred tolls of $256 and a traffic fine of $160. Finding that she Read More
The Sharing Economy
On the internet, everything is for hire. Last night 40,000 people rented accommodation from a service that offers 250,000 rooms in 30,000 cities in 192 countries. They chose their rooms and paid for everything online. But their beds were provided by private individuals, rather than a hotel chain. Hosts and guests were matched up by Airbnb, a firm based in San Francisco. Since its launch in 2008 more than 4,000,000 people have used it—2,500,000 of them in 2012 alone. It is the most prominent example of a huge new “sharing economy”, in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, coordinated via the internet. Read More