Thursday, October 15, 2015
Shu-Yi Oei (Tulane) presents The Tax Lives of Uber Drivers: Evidence from Internet Discussion Forums (with Diane Ring (Boston College)) at Brooklyn today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:
In this paper, we investigate the tax issues and challenges faced by ridesharing drivers by examining their interactions in three internet discussion forums: Reddit.com, Uberpeople.net, and the Intuit TurboTax AnswerXchange Forum. We subjected the data to quantitative analysis using descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis, in order to generate a comprehensive description of what tax issues and concerns forum participants face, how taxes factor into their driving decisions, and how tax compliance and advising culture operates in the forums.
We find that while forum participants for the most part understood that they had an obligation to file taxes, their understandings of and approaches to expenses and deductions were less accurate and more varied in terms of degree of sophistication and willingness to comply with tax law. Forum participants also exhibited different degrees of sophistication in their understanding of how taxes affected their bottom line. Furthermore, forum participants displayed varied preferences and legal understandings with respect to questions of desired worker classification (i.e., as independent contractors versus employees). Finally, while the forums contained a surprising degree of sophisticated and accurate tax advice, they also contained a good amount of inaccurate, confusing, or misleading information. It is thus uncertain whether forum readers are able to successfully distinguish between accurate and inaccurate advice dispensed on the discussion boards.
Based on our findings, we make normative observations and recommendations for effective tax administration in ridesharing and related sectors. We also indicate the issues and questions that are likely to be important in understanding the 1099 economy and that merit more in-depth research.