Uber, Lyft sued; McPier, others say taxes owed on airport pickups

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The operator of McCormick Place has sued the Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services, saying they are not paying a required tax on airport pickups - money that helps fund the convention center. | File photo

Two local tourism agencies and a northwest suburb filed suit Friday against Uber and Lyft, claiming the ride-hailing services have refused to pay a tax imposed on all persons providing transportation from O’Hare and Midway airports.

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, commonly known as McPier, along with the Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism bureau, and the village of Rosemont filed the lawsuit, claiming the ride-hailing companies have neither collected nor paid the fee, called the Airport Departure Tax, since the city allowed them to pickup passengers at the airports in November 2015.

The departure tax pays for McPier’s capital improvement projects and funds Choose Chicago and the maintenance and improvement of the Donald E. Stephen Convention Center, according to the lawsuit. McPier manages McCormick Place convention center and Navy Pier.

McPier is allowed to impose the tax “on all persons, other than a governmental agency, engaged in the business of ground transportation for hire to passengers in the metropolitan area at a rate of $4 per [vehicle]…from commercial service airports in the metropolitan area,” the suit said.

On Jan. 7, McPier notified Uber and Lyft of their obligation to pay the tax, no payments have been received, according to the lawsuit.

The Chicago-Sun Times has reported that Uber and Lyft owe Chicago taxpayers $15 million in unpaid parking tickets, red-light and speed camera fines and overdue water bills, which has fueled demands for them to get chauffeur’s licenses.

Ald. Anthony Beale also alleged that Uber and Lyft owed “millions” more because they’re not collecting the $4-a-ride departure tax, the Sun-Times reported.

“If any company owed that kind of money to the city of Chicago, they could not renew their license,” Beale said at the time.

In response to the lawsuit, spokeswomen for Uber and Lyft both said MPEA does not have the authority to levy the tax since their drivers are not operating for-hire vehicles like taxis and liveries. They also said the $4-a-ride tax, if imposed, would be passed on to consumers.

Besides the unpaid taxes, the lawsuit asks for interest and penalties.

An Uber spokeswoman said the ride-hailing services, under their deal with the city allowing them airport access, already pay $5 per pick up and $5 per drop off.

“We look forward to defending the consumers who would be harmed by this illegal tax in court,” said Uber spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

McPier lawsuit

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