21 Nov 2016 04:00pm

GMB union calls on HMRC to investigate Uber

HMRC has received a formal request from one of Britain's biggest unions to investigate Uber over tax and workers' wages

Caption: GMB union says Uber should be investigated over tax and workers' wages

The GMB union, which represents over 640,000 public and private sector workers, urged the Revenue to look into the taxi service company and ensure that drivers employed by the firm are being paid at least the National Minimum Wage.

The union said HMRC should exercise its “legal responsibility for enforcement of the minimum wage laws and collection of taxes” following an employment tribunal judgement decision which ruled that Uber's drivers are employees and not self-employed.

The company can no longer try to pass the buck of tax responsibility to drivers by pretending they are self employed

Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director

Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director said, “We have formally requested today that HMRC investigate the dark maze of tax avoidance at Uber.

“The company can no longer try to pass the buck of tax responsibility to drivers by pretending they are self employed.

"HMRC must act now to enforce the UK National Living Wage / National Minimum Wage laws for Uber drivers. HMRC has a legal duty to ensure that the 30,000 drivers are paid the Living Wage / National Minimum Wage for all hours Uber drivers are clocked on.”

The union also said that its members have “significant concerns” that appropriate National Insurance contributions (NICs) have not been paid by Uber.

The London Central Employment Tribunal ruled last month that two Uber drivers, who, along with 19 other drivers, brought claims against the company, are not self-employed but workers who are entitled to essential workers’ rights including to be paid the National Minimum Wage and receive paid holiday.

The case was brought by GMB using law firm Leigh Day. The union found last year that a driver working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August after costs and fees were taken into account, which is significantly below the National Minimum wage.

If the tribunal ruling is upheld and drivers are no longer classed as self-employed, Uber could face a substantial tax bill and be liable for millions of pounds in NICs and VAT payments.

However, Uber pointed out that the judgment states that the claimants have been classed as workers, not employees, which is an important distinction when it comes to NICs. The firm also announced it will appeal the ruling.

A tax tribunal would have to rule that the drivers are employees, for Uber to be forced to pay NICs on employee’s wages.

According to Companies House fillings, Uber paid just £410,851 UK corporation tax last year, despite recording a turnover of £23.3m.

While Uber pays its employees an average salary of £68,000 based on a total wage bill of £7.16m, the accounts did not state the number of drivers working for the company, or their average earnings.

A HMRC spokesperson said at the time of the ruling, “The government takes false self-employment very seriously, and is committed to taking strong action where companies, to reduce their costs, force their staff down routes which deny them the employment rights and benefits they are entitled to.

“Where companies are believed to have misclassified individuals as self-employed, HMRC establishes the facts of the case and will take steps to ensure that all the appropriate tax, NICs, interest, and penalties are paid.”

Jessica Fino


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