The Bicycle Commuter Act of 2008, which became a law on January 1, 2009, is a transportation fringe benefit that provides a small sum to qualified employees to offset costs incurred through bicycle commuting. Passed as an addendum to the larger Renewable Energy Tax Credit legislation, the tax provision sought to elevate cyclists to the same level as people who received qualified transportation benefits for taking transit.
This tax benefit is mutually beneficial for employers and employees. Receiving the bicycle commuter tax provision is estimated to save 40% on every dollar that is used through the program for employees, while employers should save around 10% on every dollar in saved payroll taxes (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition 2010). The actual text of the law can be found at http://www.bikeleague.org/news/100708adv.php.
The provision functions as a benefit offered by employers to those employees that regularly use a bike for a "substantial" portion of travel between home and work. Meeting the "substantial" portion requirement usually means biking three days out of every five for full-time employees and less for part-time employees. The benefits include offsetting fixed costs associated with bicycling, including the cost of a commuter bike, bike lock, helmet, bike maintenance and the provision of bike parking and showers at work. Individuals that receive this benefit, up to $20 per month, cannot receive any other qualified fringe transportation benefits.
If you are interested in receiving this benefit, inform your employer that you (as well as any other bicycle commuters in your office) want this benefit. Your employer can either contract with a Commuter Benefit Provider, an outside consultant that will manage the reimbursement system, or set up an in-house reimbursement scheme. Verify how and when you will be reimbursed before going on a shopping spree, and be sure to keep your receipts!
Source: These WIll be Updated Often As More Information is Available here
On January 1, 2009, the qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement was added to the list of qualified transportation fringe benefits covered in section 132 (f) of the Internal Revenue Service Code.
The Bicycle Commuter Act was in front of Congress for seven years, and finally passed as an inclusion to the larger Renewable Energy Tax Credit legislation in 2008. The original intent of the provision was to provide a simple, equitable solution to put cyclists on the same footing as people who receive qualified transportation benefits (QTF)’s for taking transit or driving (or parking, actually) their cars to and from work. It was intended that the bike commuting benefit would be treated the same as the other QTF’s.
The total anticipated cost of the provision, estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation, is a very modest $1 million per year, as compared to the $4.5 billion annual cost of parking and transit benefits.
The Leauge developed reimbursement cards to make implementing the Bicycle Commuter Act in your workplace as easy as possible. Simply sign the pledge on the card that states you commuted to work by bike for at least three days per week, and then staple your receipts to the card. Download reimbursement cards for your workplace.
Companies are finding their own unique ways of implementing this program. At the League we developed a set of monthly reimbursement cards (January, February...) to help track employee commutes. Meredith Corporation developed a set of guidelines to help employees understand the reimbursement program, click here to view their guidelines. To help track employee miles Meredith uses a tracking log.
The intent of this provision is to help defray some of those fixed costs such as; the purchase of a decent commuter bicycle; bike lock; helmet; bike parking facilities; shower facilities; and general maintenance. The real costs associated with bike commuting are much less than commuting by car but those bike commuters should be able to have help with those costs. Employers might not think this is a huge benefit to them but giving people a little financial incentive is another step in the right direction to build moral.
What is considered a bicycle commuting month?
A qualified bicycle commuting month is any month in which an employee: (I) regularly uses a bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between his residence and his place of employment, and (II) does not receive any other qualified transportation benefit for such as transit, and parking.
As a rule, the qualified transportation fringe benefit can only be provided by employers to employees. Common law employees and officers of corporations are eligible (the law does not include non-discrimination requirements for the benefit). Sole proprietors, partners, independent contractors and two-percent shareholders of S corporations are not eligible for this transportation fringe benefit.
A qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement, means any employer, if they chose to do so, may provide a reimbursement of up to $20 per month for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in conjunction with their commute to work by bike.
Please note however, that unlike the other qualified transportation fringe benefits, a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement benefit cannot be funded through employee pre-tax income, nor can an employee receive both the transit and bicycle QTF in the same month. Click here to read in-depth analysis of the bike commuter provision limitations.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced H.R. 863 on February 4, 2009, to amend the IRS section 132 (f) to allow employees to fund the bike provision through a pre-tax income, as well as allow the use of both the transit and bike benefit it the same month. Click here to see entire bill. H.R. 863 was referred to the committee on Ways and Means however there has been no action at this time. We will continue to monitor and provide updates for action.
· First, talk to your employer and tell them you want this benefit. If there are other bike commuters in your office, tell them to speak up too!
· Many employers contract with a Commuter Benefit Provider to coordinate their commuter programs, so have your benefit coordinator call the provider to request enrollment in the bike benefit program. As of April 2009, we have not confirmed any providers who offer the bike benefit other than Accor Services. But other providers are looking to initiate this program, so call and tell them you want it!
· If your employer already contracts with a Commuter Benefit Provider, ask the person who coordinates these benefits to request enrollment in the bike benefit program. If the provider doesn't offer it, find out when they plan to implement it- it's law as of January 1, 2009.
· If your employer prefers to manage the qualified transportation fringe benefits (qtfb) in-house, rather than with a Commuter Benefit Provider, the employer can implement a cash reimbursement program.
· The key point to consider in setting up a cash reimbursement program is that there is a mechanism for the employee to certify that they will commute to work by bike a substantial portion of the month. For example that could mean three days a week for a full time employee and less for a part-time employee. Employers can best determine what works best for their organization. Additionally, employee keeps their receipts for covered expenses and turns them into the employer for reimbursement up to $20 a month or $240 per year.
The Commuter Benefit is real and in effect- it is the same as all other pre-tax benefits for transit and parking currently available by the IRS. (See Section 2, "Transportation (Commuting) Benefits" of the IRS Publication 15-B (2009), Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits)
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