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Employer credits for Uber, Lyft, should be tax-free, says Dem

The government should make it possible for companies to give their employees credits for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft without paying taxes on them, Rep. Eric Swalwell said on Wednesday.

The California Democrat made the comments after the launch of the “Sharing Economy Caucus,” which he leads with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). He was responding to a question about what concrete steps the federal government could take to aid “sharing economy” companies.

{mosads}“One idea that I have heard about is the commuter tax benefits,” Swalwell said. “I do think that we need to expand those to include ride sharing.

“If we believe that commuters should have a tax benefit for not using a car or for reducing the number of cars on the road, I think we should also include new and innovative ways people are getting around. So that’s one easy one where I think we could probably add that.”

It is currently possible for employers to provide their employees with parking spaces or money for their transit passes without paying taxes on what is, essentially, another form of compensation. The law sets a dollar limit on the tax-free commuter benefits given to each employee.

The idea of extending that overall treatment to ride-sharing services was raised during the event by David Estrada, the vice president of government relations for Lyft.

“We think that it would be probably beneficial for traffic if we tried to move away from the incentive for parking because you can have quite a large tax free benefit every month when you’re an employer to park,” he said. “If we gave that same benefit to share a ride inside a vehicle like Lyft then we think we could probably eliminate a lot of traffic when you consider that most traffic is created by the work commute.”

The event featured Estrada, Airbnb’s Head of Global Public Policy David Hantman and Padden Guy Murphy, the head of business development and public policy for startup Getaround. New York University Professor Arun Sundararajan acted as a moderator.

So-called “sharing economy” companies have been cited by many politicians as examples of Silicon Valley ingenuity. Still, the reality that most regulatory questions facing sharing economy companies exist on the state and local level, rather than in Congress, hung over the event.

“We deal much more with cities than with the federal government,” said Hantman. Airbnb has butted up against hotel laws in some of the cities where it operates.

Swalwell said that the caucus could serve an educational purpose before it was necessary to promote new regulatory schemes for the sharing economy.

“The key here is to make sure that people understand what the sharing economy is before we start to regulate it,” he said.

Tags Darrell Issa Eric Swalwell Lyft Uber

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