Bill to Allow Baltimore to Collect Millions in Taxes on Uber, Lyft Rides Moves Forward after Yearlong Delay

A bill that would allow Baltimore to collect millions in taxes on Uber and Lyft rides — which went a year without a hearing due to the political upheaval following the resignation of ex-Mayor Catherine E. Pugh — was approved by the City Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development committee Thursday.

The rideshare tax bill will be heard by the full council on Jan. 27 and is expected to pass. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young plans to sign it “as soon as it crosses his desk,” according to spokesman Lester Davis.

After Pugh resigned, the council committee postponed the hearing on the bill in October to allow new City Council President Brandon Scott to be briefed on the details. The committee voted Thursday to approve the 25-cent tax, but not double it, which was recommended by the city finance department to cover plunging parking revenues blamed partly on increased ridesharing.

Baltimore has collected no taxes on an estimated 9 million Uber and Lyft rides per year despite a 2015 state law enabling it to do so, costing the city roughly $2.1 million in revenue annually, assuming a 25-cent tax, according to the city Department of Finance.

The state law was amended in 2016, requiring the city to update its law to begin taxing the companies. Pugh, who received $2,000 in political contributions from Lyft in 2016, did not introduce the bill to do so until January 2019.

[Opinion] Baltimore can’t afford to leave any more money on the table »
Revenues from the city’s parking tax, meters and city-owned garages, meanwhile, have plunged a collective $4.1 million, or about 6%, in the past two years, according to the finance department, which called the growth of rideshare “one of the factors explaining the recent sharp decline.”

Uber and Lyft pay a 25-cent tax on each ride originating in Annapolis, Brunswick, Frederick, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Ocean City due to local laws in those municipalities. State law exempts the city from a 25-cent cap in other jurisdictions.

Uber, which charged Baltimore riders 25 cents extra for nearly a year in anticipation of having to pay a similar tax, instead began crediting them with Uber Cash in recent weeks for a “city-specific fee” that was “ultimately not collected by the city.”

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