Chilean bank ordered to open Uber's accounts to taxman

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By Aislinn Laing and Erik Lopez

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s Supreme Court has ordered the Bank of Chile to allow tax authorities to examine the local accounts of Uber (N:), rejecting an appeal by the ride-sharing company, according to a judgment seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The bank was ordered to provide the Internal Revenue Service (SII) with details of payments into and out of two bank accounts controlled by Uber´s local entity between January 1 2015 and May 30 2017, along with information about other bank accounts it previously opened then closed, within 10 days of the ruling.

It is the latest in a series of legal disputes globally involving Uber and its drivers over issues such as employment terms, regulation and taxation which could impinge on its operations and profitability.

The court document said Uber Chile SPA received significant payments from its parent company in the Netherlands.

The tax authorities singled out payments from Uber in the Netherlands labeled Driver Payment Chile of more than 500 million Chilean pesos ($697,600) for the 2016 tax year and 60 billion pesos for the 2017 tax year, according to the court ruling.

Uber had appealed against an order by the Tax and Customs Court in Santiago and Chile´s Appeal Court that bank secrecy be lifted for the inspection by the tax authorities.

“The law authorizes SII to request judicial authorization for the correct exercise of its supervisory powers in order to obtain essential background to verify the veracity and integrity of tax returns,” the Supreme Court judgment said.

Uber did not respond to Reuters´ request for comment on the finding.

The Internal Revenue Service said in a statement that “all taxpayers who develop a lucrative activity in the country, legal or natural persons, Chilean or foreign, must comply with the obligations established by the tax regulations.”

An Uber spokesman told Reuters in March that it encouraged drivers to declare their incomes to the tax authorities as self-employed workers.

“Uber is present across all regions of Chile, more than 85,000 drivers use our platform to earn an income and support their families, and more than 2.2 million people rely on Uber to move around their cities,” it said.

Uber and other ride-sharing digital applications remain technically illegal in Chile where legislation to govern them has been delayed amid representations by traditional taxi firms and unions.

Last week, Uber announced it would seek to buy a majority share in the Santiago-based grocery delivery application Cornershop to provide Uber customers with “the operating system for your everyday life”.

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