Workforce Wednesday: Car-sharing app paves way for debate in Alaska Legislature
Like many Alaskans, David Phillips keeps busy. The father of two is a full-time member of the Alaska Air National Guard, a part-time volunteer EMT and a Turo host in his pastime.
Some Alaska lawmakers are concerned the company is getting a free ride. Unlike other peer-to-peer programs, such as Uber or AirBNB, Turo doesn't pay any local taxes.
House Bill 102, sponsored by House Transportation Committee co-chair Adam Wool, would change that.
"This legislation enforces a rental car tax because many of us believe that peer-to-peer, and we encourage it, is a form of vehicle rental," Wool said at an April hearing in Juneau.
That's where Turo disagrees. In his testimony before the House Transportation Committee, Ethan Wilson, the government relations manager and legislative counsel for the company, argued peer-to-peer car sharing is inherently different than car rental because of the scale of Turo's transactions. He says Turo hosts are individuals who set their own pricing for vehicle use.
"There needs to be study as to what an appropriate tax rate would be," Wilson said.
Still, Wool says Turo's testimony hasn't changed his perspective on the issue.
"Well, if I have a car and someone uses it for a week and gives me $200, I call that rental, I don't call it sharing," Wool said. "I mean, I tell my kids to share their toys with each other. They don't charge each other."
Car sharing for Phillips probably won't change much if HB 102 passes. He assumes the taxes would be passed on to his guests using the car. For now, he's enjoying the extra income and peace of mind.
"You know, if I go on a deployment or stuff, I still have to make my car payment," Phillips said, noting that the app has given his family more financial stability.
Alaska's legislature is slated to adjourn Wednesday, making HB 102 unlikely to pass this year. However, committee work on the bill would carry over into the next regular session of the 31st legislature.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
MORE WORKFORCE WEDNESDAY: