SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers say they are being blind-sided after learning they owe hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars for business licenses.
Some fear it could drive them out of business.
Last week, KPIX 5 reported that the San Francisco Treasure and Tax Collector sent out notices to 37,000 Uber and Lyft drivers, informing them that — as independent contractors — they had to register for a business license.
What many didn’t realize was that they would also have to pay penalties and fees for every year they’ve worked without being registered.
Until last week, Michael Sicard said he had no idea that ride-share drivers are required to register as a business in San Francisco.
“If I knew this was going to happen, I would have planned for it,” said Sicard. “Uber and Lyft said that this is a new rule.”
When he contacted there Treasurer’s office, he was told the only new thing was is that Uber and Lyft finally handed over a list of all their drivers to city officials.
“We’re being charged penalties interest and fees for last year and this year,” said Sicard.
And since the 2017 fiscal year begins in June, drivers will have to pay for next year’s registration too. The cost is $91 per year plus $155 in fees and penalties per year past due.
Drivers like Michael have to come up with more than 500 bucks by May 15th.
“I just can come up with the money that quick,” said Sicard.
Now many are blaming the ride share companies for leaving drivers in the dark.
“I even emailed inquiries asking if there are any other permits or licenses that I’ll need and they said no,” explained Sicard.
However, under Prop E — which was passed back in 2012 — anyone working more 7 days a year, including driving on San Francisco streets, must register and pay an annual fee.
In a statement, Uber says “As independent contractors, drivers are responsible to follow appropriate local laws.”
Lyft echoed the sentiment and insists the rules are new, stating “We do not believe the city had made a decision about how to treat ride-sharing drivers for business license purposes until very recently.”
Either way, drivers are hoping someone steps in to help them cover the unexpected penalties and late fees.
“I don’t have that money and, without the business license, won’t be able to drive to make ends meet,” said Sicard. “So my car will get repossessed and I’ll go into bankruptcy.
Now both Uber and Lyft say their disappointed the city is treating drivers as small businesses and cite privacy concerns because business licenses are public information which may include a driver’s home address.
The Treasurer’s office was not available for an interview, but pointed out a media push last year that was aimed at reminding drivers and rideshare companies that they were required to register.