Philly sues Uber, demands access to financial records

An Uber app is seen on an iPhone.
REUTERS

The City of Brotherly Love is putting its dukes up against Uber. 

City lawyers are calling upon the wildly popular rideshare app to open its books in hopes of settling allegations of skirting three years-worth of taxes. A complaint filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Tuesday states that the City Charter grants the green light for the Department of Revenue to conduct audits of any business operating in town. Officials are trying to determine if Uber Technologies Inc. owes business income, receipts, and wage taxes for the three-year period between 2015 and 2017, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The suit also sets its sights on Uber’s federal, state, and local tax returns, employee income info, and personal information on anyone who received non-employee compensation.

The lawsuit asks a judge to order Uber to hand over financial data within 30 days or fine the company $900 for failing to comply requests. This wouldn’t be too hard for them to come up with: Uber made more than $320 million in Philadelphia in 2017, according to Parking Authority records obtained by Philly.com. Financial records prior to 2017 are of particular interest because Uber wasn’t legal in Pennsylvania until Nov. 2016. The suit alleges that the ride-hailing company may have operated without proper authorization.

The city has filed three information requests, which never reached the powers that be at Uber due to an alleged miscommunication situation. “Unfortunately, we never received the audit requests,” Uber spokesman Harry Hartfield told Law360.com in a statement. “As soon as we found out today about the lawsuit, we were in communication with the city’s audit department and agreed to provide documents requested. The city has advised that once we provide the documents, it will discontinue the legal action.”  

Meanwhile, drivers in Philadelphia joined drivers in Boston, Atlanta, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Minneapolis plus several Australian and European cities in a global strike Wednesday over what they deem to be poor working conditions and low pay. 

Uber drivers are considered contractors, not employees, who make $8.55 per hour in the U.S., which is $1.30 more than the national average. Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25. Uber will make its debut on Wall Street on May 10, and experts expect the San Francisco-based company and fellow ride-hailing app, Lyft, will be worth tens of billions, according to the BBC.

“Uber’s much-anticipated IPO will put millions into the pockets of executives, but the drivers who are the core of the service of the company will get nothing,” Gig Workers Rising organizer Shona Clarkson told The Guardian. “Uber is paying drivers poverty wages and continues to slash wages while executives make millions.” 

There are currently an estimated 25,000 Uber drivers in town.

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