Lyft and Uber ‘skating’ on taxes?

Standard

From my Facebook post at https://www.facebook.com/taxiabq/posts/433223643513269?notif_t=notify_me

After four months I FINALLY got through to the auditor at Taxation & Revenue. I was given the runaround, until I caught her in a trap which forced her to actually do some digging on her computer. Randy was there, listening in on the phone call. I am pretty darn sure Lyft and Uber (Hinter-NM LLC) are not collecting or paying gross receipts taxes. First evidence, they refused to produce specific business records, receipts and a list of their contract drivers, at the PRC hearings. “Proprietary information,” their attorneys said. If they were filing GRT, those records could be available for production at Taxation & Revenue. Then, I read the Lyft driver agreement and there is NO mention of gross receipts taxes being part of the ‘fare,’ — what they called a ‘donation’ — nor 7% GRT added to a driver’s commission. The ‘donation’ itself was a clue as well, as it was a direct obfuscation (just like Lyft and Uber were careful not to call themselves ‘taxi’ services but a quasi-carpooling ‘rideshare’) . . . all to avoid tax liability. Finally, at the Bernalillo County District Emergency Injunction hearing one of the Lyft attorneys jumped up and told Judge Franchini that they were filing 1099’s for all the drivers. Now, a 1099 is a federal tax form required for all contract payments to non-employees paid over $600. However, that has nothing to do with Gross Receipts. I sent the Taxation & Revenue forensic auditor the information she requested. Her ears perked up even more when I told her Lyft and Uber probably owed about $15,000/month in taxes. I sent a copy the email to Yellow Cab and Speaker Sanchez. Once the auditor determines tax fraud, the information will not be released to the public . . . so, it is up to the attorneys, Cadigan and Sanchez, what to do from there.
I don’t do a lot of paralegal work, but my research has proven useful on a few occasions. Analyzing evidence was part of the challenge in putting together a case. First, what were the legal concepts in tort or criminal law? Then, what evidence was proof, and how would you obtain it? I forgot to mention two more incidences ‘evidence’ of Lyft and Uber’s tax fraud. One, I personally know a driver who had to get their own business license and pay 7% right out of their Lyft commissions. You see, there is no way for the contractor to ‘bill’ Lyft for local taxes. The second is the HB194 Transportation Network bill itself. It is embarrassing and a shame it passed in the House, because one section that survived revision was the ‘exemption from local taxes.’ What did they mean by ‘local?’ Mayor Berry, an early supporter of Lyft and Uber should be advised that by taking half the taxi business away, so goes local and state tax revenue. And, as I pointed out in the post, Lyft and Uber are probably doing enough business to warrant $15,000 per month in gross receipts taxes.

Advertisements

Distracted Driving and GPS and Cellphone Taxi Dispatch

Standard

Prior to designing Call-A-Cab, I studied distracted driving and the only driver interfaces are the Driver ‘in/out’ application and use of the cellphone itself.

Here are the Smartphone screens for Call-A-Cab operation:

CACscreens

The first screen is like any other, including easy access for essential operations such as Phone, Google Maps, Square Credit Card, and the Call-A-Cab application.

These are easy to find with barely a glance and one thumb to open.

The Call-A-Cab driver app, once opened, is a plain black screen with a bar going across the entire screen, requiring just one fat thumb to operate and barely a glance to confirm update. It is one button for checking either ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the map.

Answering Incoming Calls

Call-A-Cab is designed for customers to find the GPS map and locate the closest available taxi, and Autodial that taxi to talk directly to the driver. The driver is then on the way in about 10 seconds. This short time is essential to start competing and beating Lyft and Uber claims of servicing calls in ten minutes. The driver doesn’t have to take notes or text information. The customer’s phone number is in the Smartphone call history.

However, answering the phone conflicts with Anti-Texting and local Cellphone use laws (cited below).

I see some drivers using Bluetooth earpieces or in-line Earbuds, but the sound quality is iffy and I find in-ear devices uncomfortable.

I prefer an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker. The Bluetooth speaker not only allows you to play radio or broadband programming, but only requires a push of a button to activate the Speakerphone, and customers tell me the sound quality is excellent. The Craig is available at WalMart or Office Depot for $15 to $20.

For your information, here are some resources concerning Distracted Driving:

Medical Studies and Legal Reports

While distracted driving includes any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the primary task of driving, the use of electronic devices while driving is particularly dangerous as they require visual, auditory and cognitive attention and often some form of manual attention as well. Unlike distractions such as eating, selecting pre-set radio stations, etc., electronic devices are more interactive and require greater time commitment and continual attention, response and manipulation to obtain a desired result . . . Crash risk increases dramatically – as much as four times higher . . . U.S. State and Federal Laws Targeting Distracted Driving, J.D. Catherine Chase, Ann Adv Automot Med. 2014 Mar; 58: 84-98, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001667/

New Mexico Anti-Texting Law

66-7-374. Texting while driving.
A. A person shall not read or view a text message or manually type on a handheld mobile communication device for any purpose while driving a motor vehicle, except to summon medical or other emergency help or unless that device is an amateur radio and the driver holds a valid amateur radio operator license issued by the federal communications commission.

B. The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a handheld mobile communication device. Unless otherwise provided by law, the handheld mobile communication device used in the violation of the provisions of this section is not subject to search by a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop made pursuant to the provisions of this section.
C. C. As used in this section:
(1) “driving” means being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway or street and includes being temporarily stopped because of traffic, a traffic light or stop sign or otherwise, but “driving” excludes operating a motor vehicle when the vehicle has pulled over to the side of or off of an active roadway and has stopped at a location in which it can safely remain stationary;
(2) “handheld mobile communication device” means a wireless communication device that is designed to receive and transmit text or image messages, but “handheld mobile communication device” excludes global positioning or navigation systems, devices that are physically or electronically integrated into a motor vehicle and voice-operated or hands-free devices that allow the user to compose, send or read a text message without the use of a hand except to activate, deactivate or instant a feature or function; and
(3) “text message” means a digital communication transmitted or intended to be transmitted between communication devices and includes electronic mail, and instant message, a text or image communication and a command or request to an internet site; but “text message’ excludes communications through the use of a computer-aided dispatch service by law enforcement or rescue personnel.

Craig CMA3569

Wirth

Peak Demand and Upsell Services

Standard

If you go to the first blog entry, I discuss the issue of too many cabs at some times and not enough during peak demand. I suggested a cadre’ of drivers certified and insured to use their personal luxury sedans, or SUVs and Minivans to put in extra hours.

The same boost in cars available can also be done by creating a six or four-hour exigency shift, the drivers using regular taxis or ‘luxury’ Checker black cars, town cars. A day driver having worked 3 day shifts would be able to work a half-shift at night during special events or for weekend bar rush.

Checker has a long history, even making their own cars, some luxurious. I drove a Checker Marathon in Philadelphia for three months back in 1981. That car was roomy, could hold a lot of people.

I was playing around in Photoshop, and here is a test logo for Checker sedan services:

checkerweb

Call-A-Cab Ready to Rock Albuquerque

Standard

When Call-A-Cab launched August of 2012, there was no Lyft or Uber. Within two weeks, an investigator from the Public Regulations Commission rang came to my office, suspicious and threatening. But when I opened the website and clicked to the GPS map on my 32″ monitor, and told him all those blue tags represented legal taxis, he loved it and invited me their Santa Fe offices and to call if I ever needed help.

I had a good relationship with the PRC and did visit their offices, and got help from Ryan Jerman, the Transportation Division Director, on some legal questions.

However, when Lyft and Uber entered the Albuquerque market, we were devastated. They had enormous publicity (when the Albuquerque Journal reporter killed her story with an, ‘eh, I don’t take taxis anyway’) and their incredible advantage, giving away rides and by not complying with New Mexico laws requiring business registration, tax ID numbers, insurance, application for taxi certificates, gross receipts taxes . . . well, the list goes on and on, my fledgling business was devastated, our overall fares eventually dropped 50%.

Call-A-Cab had enough of its own issues. I thought that with the right promotion and publicity, customers would go to the GPS map and find the closest taxi and, call a cab. However, the advertising had no effect, we had no publicity, and customers kept trying to call a dispatch number instead of going to the GPS map.

So, now Call-A-Cab’s presence on the Internet is not just on this blog but Google+, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Google Ads . . . and we have two incoming dispatch lines to help direct people to the closest cab, and teach them about the GPS map later.

People are used to Smartphone Apps? Well, Call-A-Cab is not an app, it is a publicly-accessible website with a streaming GPS map showing locations of available taxis. However, not to be left out I had a programmer create a ‘bookmark’ app that positioned a graphic link (favicon) to a regular customer’s main phone screen.

Screenshot_icon copy

Call-A-Cab is not only equal in visual presence on your Smartphone, it is designed for Albuquerque and visitors. The main page has two main buttons, one for the map and one for calling dispatch, but it also has a menu of links to Advance Bookings, Flat Rates, Airport Arrivals, Public Transportation Schedules, Restaurant Reviews, Apartment Site Maps, and Points-of-Interest.

SmartPhone Screen

SmartPhone Screen