Georgia senators back 50-cent fee on Uber, Lyft, taxi rides

A key Senate panel Thursday backed a 50-cent fee on Uber, Lyft, taxi and limo rides to replace sales taxes that ride-share company customers would be charged starting April 1.

The ride-share fee was attached to House Bill 105, which was filed to offer farmers a state income tax exemption on disaster relief aid.

"Those are interesting bills to put together," said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

The General Assembly passed and Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law House Bill 276 last month as a means to collect sales taxes from customers of internet- and app-based businesses, including Uber and Lyft. Taxi and limo customers have long paid sales taxes.

Lawmakers said Uber and Lyft customers already owed sales taxes on their rides, but Uber is currently in a legal dispute over a $22 million sales tax bill the Department of Revenue sent the company.

Under the new version of HB 105, which the Senate Finance Committee passed Thursday, ride customers wouldn’t pay sales taxes, but instead a fee of 50 cents per trip or 25 cents per pooled ride. The fees would go into effect April 1 if the measure is approved by the House and Senate and signed into law.

"This is not a new tax, it is a replacement," said Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, a member of the committee who was pushing the ride fee.

Gooch said the fee could bring in up to $45 million next year, although the state would also lose the potential sales tax revenue it currently collects or would collect as of April 1. Gooch said any extra money the state brings in would go to transportation projects.

Local governments, which now get sales tax money from taxi rides and would get some from Uber and Lyft under HB 276, could lose up to $26.5 million next year if the measure goes into effect because they won't get a share of the fee and would lose the sales tax revenue.

Gooch said: “There has been an effort in the last three years to expand transit, not only in Atlanta but in the rest of the state. You can’t do any of this without some state revenue.

“If the state continues to invest in transit, cities and counties would benefit as well.”

Legislators considered a fee on rides last session, with the money set to fund rural transit programs. But the legislation got caught up in legislative disputes on the last day of the session and never passed.

Lobbyists for ride-share companies had said after HB 276 passed that they’d push to replace the sales tax collections with a per-ride fee before the new law takes effect.

Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George said: “If action is not taken by April 1, Georgians will end up paying one of the highest taxes in the country on ride-sharing — making trips more expensive for students, seniors and commuters alike.

“We are working with Georgia legislators on a reasonable alternative for consumers and appreciate the support of the Georgia General Assembly.”

The farmers tax exemption — the original purpose of the bill — remained in the legislation that the Senate Finance Committee passed Thursday.


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