Uber, Lyft on hold in St. Pete while city tweaks business tax
The St. Petersburg City Council has decided to defer a vote on an ordinance legalizing ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft after a dispute emerged over those companies should be subject to the city’s business tax.
Council members appeared poised Monday to approve the measure, first discussed at a council workshop in February 2015, before an Uber representative said his company was exempt from the tax because it didn’t employ any workers who received W-2 tax forms from Uber. Lyft officials had similar concerns.
The Uber representative, Cesar Fernandez, managed Mayor Rick Kriseman’s 2013 mayoral campaign.
City attorneys said the city’s tax code had been simplified in recent years, but its procedures had remained consistent: taxi and other vehicle-for-hire services were assessed the tax not by workers, but by individual vehicles.
The current tax code wasn’t explicit on this point, conceded Heather Judd, an assistant city attorney, but she said the city would need only to clarify the code to legally assess the tax, which is pegged at $65 per vehicle.
Council members agreed to defer the issue until next month when they could consider a revised tax code spelling out how taxis and ride-sharing companies would be taxed.
Taxi companies who have contended that Uber and Lyft have operated illegally in the city for years, cheered council member Jim Kennedy’s request that Kriseman order police to begin enforcing the city’s existing ordinance, which requires fees and taxes of up to $265 per vehicle.