There’s a magic to the smell of a fresh car interior, the glint of sunlight on a newly washed vehicle, and the rhythmic hum of an engine starting. As a father, it’s these little moments I’ve come to share with my adopted sons Christopher and Roberto, thanks to peer-to-peer car sharing. Our shared enthusiasm for cars has built bridges between our worlds, creating memories and instilling in them a spirit of entrepreneurship. 

Born in Idaho Falls in 1969, my family and I moved around a lot due to my father’s Navy career. One thing that remained a constant, however, was my profound love for cars. From toy cars in the crib to managing several cars on the peer-to-peer car-sharing platform Turo with my sons, the journey has been fascinating. 

Yet, an imminent storm is brewing in the serene North Carolina skies, threatening to undermine the transformative power of peer-to-peer car sharing and our dreams. 

A storm on the horizon: New legislation and its impact 

Within the budget proposal currently under consideration in the North Carolina General Assembly, there is language that would impose an additional Highway Use Tax on every peer-to-peer car-sharing transaction, and it’s backed by influential rental-car companies.

What this results in is essentially a double-tax only on those in the peer-to-peer car-sharing community, like me and my sons. When we bought our cars, we paid the Highway Use Tax. Now the legislature is looking to apply another tax every time those cars are shared. A stark contrast exists as traditional rental-car companies are required to remit their Highway Use Tax obligation only on their transactions, not on their vehicle purchase. 

That means under the bill, car rental companies would only have to pay HUT for transactions, while peer-to-peer car-sharing would be taxed both for the original purchase and for each transaction.

In essence, these policies, if enacted, would tax the peer-to-peer car-sharing community twice, over-burdening small-scale local entrepreneurs while favoring large out of state rental car companies. What does this mean for the peer-to-peer car-sharing residents like my sons and me? It spells an uphill battle to continue doing what we love — sharing our cars with others in need of transportation. 

Learning the ropes of business: A tale of empowerment 

My 27-year-old son, Christopher, whom I adopted in ninth grade, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and occasionally assists with vehicle exchanges. However, it’s my younger son, Roberto, who truly excels in the peer-to-peer car-sharing space.  

Roberto was born in Honduras and brought to the United States at age two. His early life was marked by a succession of foster homes until he became a part of our family. The adversities he faced made financial security and independence crucial aspects of his life. 

As we ventured into the realm of peer-to-peer car sharing, Roberto found an avenue to learn and apply business acumen, market research, and customer service. He reveled in the process of preparing the cars for customers, delivering stellar guest experiences, and understanding the dynamics of market trends.  

Roberto’s journey, from being underestimated to being recognized and appreciated by our customers, has been an incredible testament to his perseverance and potential. 

My son Roberto and I — a father-son car-sharing team. Image provided by Steve Combs.

Car sharing: More than a business. It’s hope

For my family, and many like us in North Carolina, peer-to-peer car sharing is not merely an app. It’s a symbol of hope, a beacon guiding us towards financial stability and independence. It’s about people like Roberto, who are scrappy and dedicated, pouring their hearts into providing a service that matters. 

However, the proposed legislation threatens to obstruct this path to self-reliance and growth. For hosts like us, who rely on car-sharing platforms for a better life, this tax could make our endeavor significantly more challenging. 

It’s important to recognize that local car owners, like myself, already pay a Highway Use Tax on vehicle purchases. Imposing an additional Highway Use Tax on every transaction would mean that we are being taxed twice. By contrast, rental car companies only have to collect and remit this tax on their transactions, not on their vehicle purchases. 

Why should the peer-to-peer car sharing community, which is predominantly composed of hardworking individuals and small-scale entrepreneurs, be penalized while large companies receive leniency? 

Charting a path for progress 

It is clear that this legislation is not grounded in fairness. It targets the aspirations of small-scale entrepreneurs like myself and my sons, who are working tirelessly to build a future for ourselves, learn the value of hard work, and contribute positively to our community. 

I implore our policymakers to recognize the value peer-to-peer car sharing brings to North Carolina and to support it. We need policies that encourage innovation, support small businesses, and nurture the dreams of individuals like Roberto and Christopher, not burden it with a duplicative tax. 

As a car-sharing host, a father, and a proud North Carolinian, I ask our lawmakers to reconsider the implications of this proposed legislation. Our story is one of resilience, hard work, and the transformative power of peer-to-peer car sharing. Let’s work together to ensure that stories like ours continue to be written across the Tarheel state.