Tax Issues in the Sharing Economy: Implications for Workers

Shu-Yi Oei, Boston College Law School
Diane M. Ring, Boston College Law School


A growing number of individuals now perform work in the sector known as the “sharing economy,” and their participation raises important tax and regulatory questions. In this chapter, we survey some of the key tax issues confronting individuals operating in the sharing economy in the United States. Many of the tax implications that arise in sharing economy work stem from the threshold decision by many platforms to classify such individuals as independent contractors rather than employees. Therefore, we first discuss how the threshold classification decision affects the substantive and compliance-related tax issues faced by individuals operating in the sharing economy. We briefly summarize the doctrinal tax rules governing income taxation of sharing economy participants and discuss some of the compliance challenges experienced by these participants in fulfilling their tax obligations. The chapter then examines tax-related factors (such as lack of withholding) that may affect the labor-supply decisions of sharing economy participants. Finally, we discuss possible reforms that may help alleviate compliance challenges associated with work in this sector or may help these individuals make more informed decisions, and we explore the downsides of such reforms.