The part of the Republican-led tax plan that most concerns readers of Mobility Lab is the pre-tax benefit for commuters, which, over the past few years, has been bandied about and punted around more than a football at a Browns-Bengals game.
On November 16, the full U.S. House passed a tax package that leaves untouched pre-tax parking and transit benefits. The benefit allows employers to provide their employees up to $255 a month tax free for bus and rail fare or for parking.
In 2016, Congress thankfully made pre-tax benefits for transit and parking the same amount, after transit had unfairly seen a smaller pre-tax incentive than parking prior to that.
The pre-tax benefit is key for transit riders in the Washington, D.C., region. According the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 65 percent of Virginia riders use this benefit. The Virginia Railway Express reports that 90 percent of its commuter-rail passengers use the benefit.
Over on the Senate side, a tax bill is being considered that would eliminate the pre-tax benefit for people who bike to work. They are currently allowed a $20 per month pre-tax benefit that allows them to maintain and repair their bicycles. The proposal prompted Rep. Earl Blumenthal (D-Ore.) to say, in Newsweek, “There is absolutely no reason to wipe out incentives for one of the cleanest, healthiest, and environmentally friendly modes of transportation that exists today.”
It is not over till it’s over. While the House passed its bill to include the pre-tax benefit for transit, parking, and bicycling, the Senate hit the pause button on considering the entire tax package because two members raised objections to other provisions in the bill.
Stay tuned on this issue, and take action by writing your representatives with the form supplied by the Association for Commuter Transportation.
Photo of New York commuters fighting for their own similar state legislation by the New York City Department of Transportation.