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IRS Bike Commuter Tax Benefit?

This topic contains 20 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  mboyd 5 mos, 2 weeks.

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danny.yabs

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Nov 4 2013 at 12:48pm #

Does anyone receive the IRS bike commuting fringe benefit through their employer, or have any information about employers who are actually extending it? Believe it or not…of all our bike friendly businesses, we still don’t have confirmation that anyone is successfully extending the benefit.

Here’s the IRS’s guide to fringe benefits – http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15b.pdf

Reason I’m asking is that there’s an amendment to the tax-code thats being reviewed by a House committee before it goes to vote that will increase the benefit from $20/mo to $35/mo in 2014. http://www.coredocuments.com/2014-qualified-transportation-fringe-benefit-220-parking-220-transit-benefit-35-bicycle/

That could be $420 that we’d be missing out on!


Benzo

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Nov 4 2013 at 2:40pm #

This is useless to me. My employer does not participate. My take is that this tax-break should be modified to not require any employer participation.


WillB

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Nov 4 2013 at 2:45pm #

^this. I’ve asked about this numerous times at work, but to no avail.


the beast

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Nov 4 2013 at 3:13pm #

I ask our HR dept lady everytime I see her..the basic answer I get is that I am not important enough. ie I was the only one who bikes to work (another person did start this year) and thats not enough for the HR dept to waste their time on.
The funny thing is that they have been charging us extra on insurance for bad things you do…smoking, etc, but will not reward healthy lifestyle choices.


helen s

Private Message

Nov 4 2013 at 5:40pm #

Chatham University. Mike Boyd (I think) is the contact there. I keep asking my employer periodically, keep hearing no. Remings me of a Mellencamp song…..


Pierce

Private Message

Nov 4 2013 at 6:02pm #

Wow, I’m glad I’m not the only person deemed not important enough for HR to bother with it…

Agreed that law is totally useless because employers are too lazy to implement it. My employer doesn’t do the bus thing either


salty

Private Message

Nov 4 2013 at 9:18pm #

Does it still require those dumb “commuter check” vouchers or can they just slip the amount into your paycheck? That seems like the real problem, it’s way more of a pain for businesses to get and distribute vouchers compared to adding a payroll line item.

My employer does not participate in the bike commuter benefit – although they do have the “self-powered commuter” program which gives you money to donate to a charity of your choice if you ride/walk/skate/etc to work. Since that ends up turning into a $500+ donation (to BikePgh, of course) in my case, it’s hard to complain too much.

They’d also buy me a bus pass if I wanted it. I did that for a while but felt guilty about it since I really don’t ride the bus to work, so I stopped.

I don’t know how either of those things may or may not interact with their ability to offer the commuter benefit.


J Z

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Nov 5 2013 at 3:53pm #

Thanks for the reminder, put in another inquiry to our HR, not hopeful, but we’ll see.


buffalo buffalo

Private Message

Nov 6 2013 at 7:43pm #

If i’m reading the IRS PDF correctly, since I work at Pitt, which automatically provides all staff with transit passes (well, sort of), I couldn’t take the bike benefit—see under Qualified bicycle commuting month, page 20. But I haven’t ever actually tried.


Pierce

Private Message

Nov 6 2013 at 9:53pm #

@salty

Even still, I was just thinking, we give large portions of our lives to our employers, couldn’t the people in HR spend a few hours figuring out how to implement it and a few hours every two weeks carrying out that implementation?


salty

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 2:10am #

Ideally, but the whole thing is so convoluted that it makes it painful and expensive for employers to offer.

http://www.bikeleague.org/content/bicycle-commuter-benefit

So, option 1 is they buy these commuter check vouchers for you. Shockingly, the company that offers them obfuscates their fees, but I saw an article that said $1/mo… which is 5%. Oh, and the shop you use has to accept them, which appears to mean you can go to REI or Performance.

Option 2 is you have to track your miles and submit receipts. That is a lot of overhead for everyone involved, it’s not just a fixed amount. No idea if you can spend $0 one month and $40 the next or if you have to find a way to spend $20 every month.

Obviously there’s more incentive if the amount is raised to $35/mo, but I think making it easier to administer would be an even bigger benefit.


neilmd

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 8:23am #

As I read the regulation any employer that provides any more general reimbursements (parking or public transit) will not see much out of the benefit, because of this:

Qualified bicycle commuting month. For any employee, a qualified bicycle commuting month is any month the employee:
1. Regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment and
2. Does not receive:
a. Transportation in a commuter highway vehicle,
b. Any transit pass, or
c. Qualified parking benefits.

I am at CMU and both b and c wipe it out. Basically everybody at CMU gets a transit pass, which is a very good thing.

However, a pet project of mine has been to try to get the parking office to structure their parking pass program as in effect a “pay for the right to park” plus a surcharge based on use. Ideally, the charge would go up during any given month with greater use so that there was a relatively large incentive not to use the permit at all. This would encourage any sort of non-use of a private car (car pooling, public transit, cycling) without bias and would also decrease the pressure on the (quite high demand) parking garages.


J Z

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 9:22am #

J Z wrote:Thanks for the reminder, put in another inquiry to our HR, not hopeful, but we’ll see.

As expected, nope, but I got a “Hello, ******** does not have a Commuting Benefits Program for bike riders. I will share your information with management. Thank you for practicing a healthy life style!”

*slow clap*


Jacob McCrea

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 9:23am #

My reality is consistent with the comments above. My employer’s HR department has never implemented the program, despite being asked a few times, and I frankly don’t blame them since no one, myself included, would qualify for the benefits. The “qualified parking benefits” program, wherein a portion of salary is set aside on a pre-tax basis and reimbursed as you incur parking costs, disqualifies me and I assume everyone else here who bikes to work occasionally. We can debate whether subsidizing driving to work by not taxing parking costs is good public policy, and I don’t think it is. That said, the law is set up to make you choose one subsidy or the other, and even if I had the option to claim the bike benefit I’d be constrained by my own self-interest to choose the one that saves 2-3 times more money than the other.


gg

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 9:28am #

We have the program at my work. I read it and to be honest, it looks like a job just to try and figure it all out. I ride a bike to and from work. What is my expense? A couple of flats a year? A set of tires now and again? Food expense? Who knows? I just gave up on it.


jonawebb

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 9:47am #

I would use it, and I’ll talk to HR again about it. My company does its own accounting and it looks like I could submit receipts for reimbursement up to $240/year, which would cover a lot of bike parts, tires, and clothing.


StuInMcCandless

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 10:09am #

Sigh. I really don’t want to plow through the legalese to know if this can be used by us 1099 folks at all. I do have a daily commute, I do do it by bike a lot of the time, I get nothing from anyone in terms of transit or parking. There are a lot of people who could use this benefit, if I can.


edronline

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 5:49pm #

buffalo buffalo wrote:If i’m reading the IRS PDF correctly, since I work at Pitt, which automatically provides all staff with transit passes (well, sort of), I couldn’t take the bike benefit—see under Qualified bicycle commuting month, page 20. But I haven’t ever actually tried.

I work for Pitt too. I don’t think that the ID card working as a transit card disqualifies pitt from doing the IRS Bike program. Because everyone at pitt can ride the bus for free, yet you can have this ID (or rather, must have this ID) while using the parking program benefit too. I think it is a matter of it being a lot of work for very little benefit.

I thought that it worked like my childcare or health FSA — you incur the expenses and then you send them in to get reimbursed?

One other issue for Pitt is that their FSA programs are administrated by UPMC Health Plan through that crappy website. UPMC doesn’t do the bike share, so even if Pitt wanted to, there is no mechanism for getting reimbursed. that would be my guess.

Has anyone actually talked to Pitt HR about this?


helen s

Private Message

Nov 7 2013 at 7:48pm #

I had conversations with Mike Boyd, Dept. of Music, at Chatham in 2011 about this. He even sent me a link to the form they submitted. No one from Chatham on the forums? Surely this is not the only employer in town that does this?

If it works, here is a link to the info:

https://mail.carnegiemuseums.org/owa/redir.aspx?C=b6f7c02e9eb84960b452c7d3dafb2006&URL=https%3a%2f%2farchive.carnegiemuseums.org%2fcgi-mod%2fgetstubbedattachment.cgi%2fBike%2520commuter%2520form.PDF%3fcharset%3diso-8859-1%26delivery%3d1316744052%26len%3d20919%26md5%3db776cd503f430ef11894bba76193eaf4%26mid%3d8a582d6e5ab7ec8cb9fa0250040073dd71239e8e6257bc66cb22043ff0e6fe80bbad261d


salty

Private Message

Nov 8 2013 at 2:55am #

Mike Boyd is definitely on the forums although I don’t know how frequently. his email is easy to find and he’s a huge bike advocate though.


mboyd

Private Message

Nov 8 2013 at 11:01pm #

Yes I am on the forum, though not always regularly. We do have the tax benefit at Chatham and I can provide more information (as can our HR people). It is pretty easy for the employer to implement. Contact me via email for more info:

Chatham email: mboyd (at) chatham.edu
Otherwise: mboyd50 (at) gmail.com

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