By Steven J. Shanker, Esq.
Every livery base that is a member of the New York Independent Livery Driver Benefit Fund (Livery Fund) is required to submit their trip records to the Fund promptly. This means that each base must submit their trip records to the Livery Fund at the same time they submit the same to the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). After all, the same report must be submitted to both, so it saves time to upload your trip records to the Livery Fund’s trip record portal right after you upload them to the TLC.
It has come to the attention of the Livery Fund that several livery bases are not only not uploading their trip records, but many of their trip records are incomplete or inaccurate.
When a livery driver gets involved in a work-related accident and a claim is filed with the Livery Fund, an investigation is initiated. The investigation starts with the livery base. The first question is whether the livery base is a member of the Livery Fund. The next question is whether the livery base sent a dispatch to a driver. If so, the subsequent inquiry is whether the vehicle the dispatch was sent to is a livery or a black car.
If the dispatch was sent to a black car, a determination has to be made regarding whether the livery base reported their trips to the Livery Fund. If so, the claim proceeds in its usual fashion. If not, investigators seek to obtain the trip records from the TLC for the base in question. Several times, a livery base claims to have sent a dispatch to a black car driver, but such dispatch was not reported to the Livery Fund or the TLC.
The failure to report all dispatches from a livery base to a black car leads to serval problems. First, the livery base is in violation of the TLC’s rules. Next, the Livery Fund cannot collect the proper premium from the livery base. Each livery base that is a member of the Livery Fund knows that, at the present time, there is a 21.5 cent surcharge to the base for each dispatch to a black car.
Some bases do not report their black car trips because they don’t think it is necessary or required. This is a wrong. When a black car driver gets involved in an accident while on a dispatch from a livery base and the livery base does not report the trip to the TLC or the Livery Fund, then the Livery Fund has no other alternative but to conduct an audit of the livery base.
The Workers’ Compensation Law of the State of New York gives the Livery Fund the power to conduct an audit of the books and records of a member livery base to determine if the base is in compliance with the law and the rules of the Livery Fund. If the Livery Fund determines, as a result of an audit, that a livery base owes monies due to one or more dispatches to a black car, then the base can either submit its records of all black car dispatches for the period demanded or the base’s membership in the Livery Fund will be terminated.
The Livery Fund takes the trip records reporting requirement very seriously. When a base does not submit its trip records to the Livery Fund and submits incomplete records to the TLC, the inevitable question is: Why did the base not submit its records of dispatches to black cars?
Perhaps the livery base thinks it is not permitted to send dispatches to black cars, and by not reporting them, it will avoid a violation. This is not correct. Per the TLC’s rules, it is completely legal for a livery base to send dispatches to black cars, but the livery base must report them to the TLC and the Livery Fund.
Some livery bases may not report their dispatches to black cars because they don’t want to pay sales tax. Remember, a livery base is only exempt from sales tax to the extent it sends a dispatch to a livery. Any dispatch by a livery base to a black car requires payment of sales tax to the State of New York. If a livery base thinks it can avoid paying sales tax to the State by simply not reporting its dispatches to black cars, it would be sorely mistaken. The State Department of Taxation & Finance conducts random audits of companies it believes owes sales tax. If the State finds out a livery base owes sales tax and did not properly or promptly pay it, then the livery base will be subject to massive fines and penalties.
Finally, some livery bases don’t report their black car dispatches to the Livery Fund because they don’t want to pay the surcharge. The reality is that not all livery bases send dispatches to black cars, but several do. For the livery bases that send dispatches to black cars but don’t report them to the Livery Fund or pay the mandatory surcharge, they are essentially placing the Livery Fund in jeopardy. The Livery Fund can only operate to the extent that all bases comply with the law and pay their required fees.
A livery base cannot and should not rely on other Livery Fund member bases to shoulder their burden. It is not proper, nor is it legal. The best way to compete with other livery bases is by doing a better job than the competition, not by cutting corners by not paying monies due to the Livery Fund.
The Livery Fund has been operating rather nicely and efficiently since its inception in 2010. It is my job to ensure the Livery Fund operates appropriately. It is also my job to ensure that livery bases that are not compliant with the law suffer the consequences. This may be by means of reporting the livery base to the TLC, the Workers’ Compensation Board and/or the Department of Taxation and Finance for each to take the necessary investigatory and/or enforcement actions.
The Livery Fund may also require revocation of said livery base’s membership. Remember that without the Fund, a livery base will be required to procure a private policy of Workers’ Compensation insurance, which is far more costly than the Fees charged by the Livery Fund. The payment of this surcharge may require livery bases to bear the cost, or the livery base can charge their drivers a slightly higher weekly base fee. It is not my position to tell a livery base owner how to operate their business, but it is my job to inform those who do not comply with the law – and the rules of the Livery Fund – of the consequences of non-compliance.
Many livery bases use Limosys’s dispatching software, and there was some confusion over how to create the necessary reports and determine how much money is owed. The Livery Fund worked with Limosys to create a reporting function that enables livery bases to easily generate the required reports. A simple feature is now available from Limosys that allows a livery base to create an “ILDBF Supplemental Report”. All the livery bases have to do is enter the period in question, and a report will be generated. This will not only allow the livery base to easily create and upload the required report but also gives base owners the means to easily determine, on a monthly basis, how much money they owe to the Livery Fund. The Livery Fund sends out invoices for black car dispatches every quarter.
Some livery bases receive the bill for their black car dispatches and wonder why they were charged a specific amount. I tell them to look at their own records and see how many dispatches were sent to black cars. Since reports can be easily generated, there is no excuse for not running this report. Any smart business owner should want to not only comply with the law but also accurately determine how much they owe by sending dispatches to black cars each month. Like any other business expense, the surcharge on black car dispatches must be borne by the livery base.
Even during this trying time in the history of the for-hire vehicle industry, it is the responsibility of all livery base owners to comply with the law. As always, I remain ready, willing, and able to help any livery base meet its compliance obligations. I take on this role because I genuinely want to see the livery industry stay alive and vibrant well into the future.