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Opinion: Uber GST ruling helps create a level paying field for taxis
Campbell Newman, The Courier-Mail
February 22, 2017 12:00am
AS MANY people in the taxi industry would know, I have been very disappointed at the way that state and territory governments across the nation have treated the taxi industry as they grappled with the arrival of Uber.
My firm view continues to be that the new arrival, Uber, has not played by the rules; leading to a situation where governments have rolled over with so-called reforms that don’t deliver a level playing field between taxis and Uber, or adequate compensation — especially given that governments have been quite happy to regulate the industry in the past and collect large licence fees.
The recent decision of the Federal Court has gone some way to addressing the stacked deck that has worked against the taxi industry by requiring Uber drivers to remit GST to the Australian Taxation Office.
Uber tried to make an argument that their drivers weren’t providing taxi travel because, ironically, they weren’t licensed in any state or territory.
Under the GST law, cabs have to charge and remit GST and if Uber drivers don’t, that’s an immediate price disadvantage of 10 per cent for the cab.
This is an important win for the community who rely on the GST to fund essential services provided by schools, hospitals, ambulances, police and fireys across Australia.
Uber, who structure their finances via offshore corporations, have an obligation to all Australians to pay their fair share — this decision is a key step towards ensuring that they do so.
While the decision is a win for Australians, who expect companies to pay their way, it’s also a big win for fairness in the way that cabs are treated.
I believe that the decision will also see:
● Uber drivers having to properly gear up as businesses, registering for the GST, running proper books of account and needing to engage professional accounting services. Yes, there are costs associated with this and they are no different to the overheads of the taxi companies to run their operations in compliance with state and federal law.
● The ATO running spot audits of Uber drivers and launching a number of high profile prosecutions for noncompliance. One thing about the ATO is that they have the resources to relentlessly pursue Uber drivers until they are satisfied that people have got the message.
● A realisation among taxi drivers that the cab companies’ arrangements actually assist them to deal with a range of compliance issues (like the GST) and provide a level of protection against prosecution.
My final point is that, if the Federal Court gets that Uber are providing taxi travel for the purposes of the GST law, then state and territory governments should stop pretending that Uber are somehow different from cabs.
They need therefore to revisit their so-called reforms and create a true level playing field for taxis and Uber drivers.
In the interest of full disclosure, Mr Newman acknowledges that Neill Ford, the Managing Director of Yellow Cabs, is a personal friend and supporter from his days in public life.
Campbell Newman is the former premier of Queensland and now Director, Araluen Capital Pty Ltd.
Melissa Grant, Australian Associated Press
February 15, 2017 10:15am
Uber is expanding into north Queensland as the state's taxi industry continues to push back against the legalisation of ride-sharing.
Taxi Council Queensland last week began an election offensive as part of its fight against the state government over its decision to legalise ride-sharing last year.
Uber, which already operates across southeast Queensland, has announced it will launch in Cairns and Townsville on March 16.
Uber Queensland spokesman Sam Bool said more than 5000 people had already expressed interest in becoming drivers in the two regional cities.
The push into regional Queensland comes after the Palaszczuk government legalised ride-sharing services in September last year, despite strong opposition from the taxi industry.
In launching its election campaign offensive, Taxi Council Queensland said the state had abandon over 16,000 small business operators who had been abandoned by the law to placate a wealthy multi-national company.
The taxi council has given a list of demands to every political party and is targeting every electorate across the state before the poll, due in the second half of 2018.
Daniel Bateman, The Cairns Post
February 15, 2017 4:40pm
IT will be business as usual for Cairns’ taxi drivers when Uber launches in the Far North next month, but some cabbies may jump ship to join the competition.
Uber has announced that it will be starting its ridesharing services in Cairns and Townsville on March 16, bringing it into direct competition with the taxi industries in both cities.
The Californian company estimates a trip through its ride-hailing app from Cairns’ city centre to the airport will be about $12 — half of a taxi fare.
Cairns Taxis chairman Layne Gardiner said the company would concentrate on providing the same current high standard of service.
“That’s what we’ll continue on doing,” he said
“We won’t be changing anything.
“We won’t be dropping our prices.
“We’ll just be giving our same level of service, and it’s a safer service, because we’ve got cameras in every taxi.
“And we’ve got GPS units to track wherever you are.”
The Palaszczuk Government legalised ridesharing services, such as Uber, in September last year, despite massive opposition from the state’s taxi industry.
In anticipation of the competition entering the local market, Cairns Taxis in 2015 launched a “charm offensive”, ordering its drivers to ensure they kept their service, vehicles and uniforms at the highest standard to ensure customer loyalty.
Taxi driver Graeme Leopold-Wooldridge, who has been driving a cab in Cairns for 22 years, believed Cairns Taxis would still deliver a better service than Uber.
“I think people will give Uber a go: people give anything a go,” he said.
“But over a longer period of time, this taxi company has delivered well for the community.
“It’s a good service.
“I hear complaints about some drivers, but I think it’s a bit hard to beat the service that exists here.”
He believed some local cabbies may choose to work for Uber with the company offering more flexible working hours.
However, Mr Gardiner warned potential Uber drivers to be cautious about the salary.
According to financial website Finder.com.au, Australian Uber drivers make 75 per cent of their weekly fare total, earning an average income of $35-40 an hour before Uber takes a 25 per cent cut.
“You’ve got to make sure you can actually make a living out of it,” Mr Gardiner said.
“Out of a $15 fare to the airport, you lose 25 (per cent) commission that goes out of the country.”