The sudden explosion of the "side hustle" has, in some ways, made the gig economy the wild west of flexible employment. States lack dedicated laws to help govern and protect freelance workers many of whom lack benefits and health insurance. In response, many workers' groups are beginning to lobby for new tax legislation. (5) Earlier this year Washington introduced a bill that would require employers to pay into a benefit fund for independent contractors. Similarly, New York is beginning to introduce a ride-transaction fee for the same purpose.
This new tax may be beneficial for gig workers "employed" by large umbrella corporations, such as Uber and Airbnb, who can afford to pay the tax and would be required by law to contribute to the fund; however, for those out on their own, there's only more uncertainty.
Will solo gig workers have the option or be forced to pay the tax/fee like a corporation in order to gain access to the larger benefit pool? Or will solo gig workers fall outside the tax/fee requirements leaving them to continue to fend for themselves as self-employed?
Even if legislation is successfully passed, the new tax/fee may cause a widespread shift among those corporations already dipping their toe into the gig economy. Corporations may decrease their use of gig workers in an effort to avoid paying a tax similar to worker's compensation for a group of transient and often rotational workers.
For example, if a corporation often hires giggers to write blog posts or modify their graphics, would that corporation simply begin to look internally for talented employees interested in garnering company-wide recognition for such a unique and visible project?
One of the largest legal issues pertaining to the gig economy is worker classification. Dan Eaton from the San Diego Tribune argues that regardless of whether legislative changes are made on a state or federal level (a separate topic up for debate) lawmakers should resist making a classification that falls between employee and independent contractor. (6) He believes this change could cause a cascade of legal claims since workers already litigate for employee re-classification. Unfortunately, re-classification may be the only way a line can be drawn for tax or fee purposes.