Senate GOP Tax Cutters Target Bike Commuter Tax Benefit

To help pay for their massive tax cut bill, Senate Republicans have proposed elimination of a small tax benefit that can save bike commuters $240 annually. Unlike the House tax bill, they don't touch parking and transit benefits.

2 minute read

November 27, 2017, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Bike Commuter

connel / Shutterstock

"The latest tax bill put forth by Senate Republicans includes the elimination of the Bicycle Commuter Act, which reimburses commuter cyclists for expenses of up to $20 a month," reports Andrew Dawson for Bicycling on Nov. 13. "That money can go toward the purchase of helmets, bike locks, and other items, as well as larger payments over time—paying off a new bike, for example.

"For some reason, the voters of this bill want to eliminate a not-costly benefit that has many other positive benefits associated with it," said Ken McLeod, policy director at the League of American Bicyclists, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

The tax benefit for cyclist commuters pales in comparison to those who transit and/or drive to work, who can claim up to $255 per month for parking or transit expenses for federal tax purposes. McLeod wondered why the cyclist deduction was targeted and not the other two, which brings us to H.R.1 - Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed the House on Nov. 16.

As noted in an earlier post on the House bill's elimination of the Federal Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Credit, it also takes away the transit and parking benefits for employers, but not employees, meaning that that some businesses might drop the benefit altogether, unless required by law, as is the case for larger employers in the Bay Area.

  This has prompted the chairman of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority Board of Directors (Metrolink), Andrew Kotyuk, to write to U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to retain the tax deduction benefit for businesses that provide transit passes to their employees, as reported in the National Association of Rail Passengers' Nov. 22 Hotline.

Overall, more than 280 companies in the LA metropolitan area offer tickets and passes to their employees.

In the letter, Kotyuk wrote that the bill would, “result in an effective tax hike for hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees," in Metrolink's Southern California service area. He argued that the elimination of the public transit tax deduction would undercut Metrolink's operating budget and could negatively impact service. About 20 percent of Metrolink's operating revenue comes from companies participating in the railroad's corporate partnership program.

"The bike commuter benefit can either be reinstated through an amendment in the Senate or when the House and Senate bills are reconciled in conference," McLeod said, writes Dawson. Similarly, the transit and parking benefits tax deductions for employers can also be restored in reconciliation.

Monday, November 13, 2017 in Bicycling

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