Bike commuter benefit now law!

President Bush signed the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act into law today.

Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon included a bike commuter benefit provision in HR1424, the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package that passed the house today and was signed by President Bush shortly afterward.

Park Blvd bike commuter

“We are delighted that the bicycle commuter benefits act has passed after a lengthy and persistent campaign spearheaded by Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR),” said League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke. “Bicycle commuters will now be extended similar benefits to people who take transit and drive to work – it’s an equitable and sensible incentive to encourage greater energy independence, improve air quality and health, and even help tackle climate change. Thanks to everyone who has helped reach this milestone, especially Walter Finch and Mele Williams, our government relations staff over the years who have worked tirelessly with Congressman Blumenauer, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and many others in Congress.”

The benefit — up to $20 per month — begins with the new year in 2009. Employers may reimburse employees, tax free, for “reasonable” expenses related to their bike commute, including equipment purchases, bike purchases, repairs, and storage if the bicycle is used as a “substantial part” of the commuter’s trip to work for the month. If you already receive another commuter tax-free fringe benefit (like a Commuter Check or EcoPass), you don’t qualify, so multimodal commuters are out of luck.

SEC. 211. TRANSPORTATION FRINGE BENEFIT TO BICYCLE COMMUTERS.

(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.

(b) Limitation on Exclusion- Paragraph (2) of section 132(f) is amended by striking ‘and’ at the end of subparagraph (A), by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting ‘, and’, and by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: ‘(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.

(c) Definitions- Paragraph (5) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:

    ‘(F) DEFINITIONS RELATED TO BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT-
      ‘(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term ‘qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement’ means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment.
      ‘(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term ‘applicable annual limitation’ means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.
      ‘(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term ‘qualified bicycle commuting month’ means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee–
      ‘(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment, and
      ‘(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).’.

(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting ‘(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)’ after ‘qualified transportation fringe’.

(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.

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70 Comments

  • Yokota Fritz
    October 9, 2008 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Dave, slight correction — many employers provide Section 132 benefits on top regular salary, instead of taking it out of the salary pre-tax like cafeteria plans. IRC 132 allows it to be done either way. My last three employers provided my transit benefit on top my salary, while the previous to that took the benefit from my paycheck first pretax.As part of the defintion of "Qualified Bicycle Commuting Month," the code says "and does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1)’" (i.e. the other benefits).

  • Yokota Fritz
    October 9, 2008 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Dave, slight correction — many employers provide Section 132 benefits on top regular salary, instead of taking it out of the salary pre-tax like cafeteria plans. IRC 132 allows it to be done either way. My last three employers provided my transit benefit on top my salary, while the previous to that took the benefit from my paycheck first pretax.As part of the defintion of "Qualified Bicycle Commuting Month," the code says "and does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1)’" (i.e. the other benefits).

  • Anonymous
    November 26, 2008 - 5:24 am | Permalink

    So all the feds have done is subsidize commuting… or to put it another way, subsidize employment & tract housing separation.

    If they were serious about reducing commuting costs (in both economic and environmental terms) then they would give substantial housing write offs to those that live close to where they work.

    As it stands now, non-commuters are penalized for having the smallest commuting carbon footprint!

  • Anonymous
    November 26, 2008 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    So all the feds have done is subsidize commuting… or to put it another way, subsidize employment & tract housing separation. If they were serious about reducing commuting costs (in both economic and environmental terms) then they would give substantial housing write offs to those that live close to where they work.As it stands now, non-commuters are penalized for having the smallest commuting carbon footprint!

  • Anonymous
    November 26, 2008 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    So all the feds have done is subsidize commuting… or to put it another way, subsidize employment & tract housing separation. If they were serious about reducing commuting costs (in both economic and environmental terms) then they would give substantial housing write offs to those that live close to where they work.As it stands now, non-commuters are penalized for having the smallest commuting carbon footprint!

  • Anonymous
    December 31, 2008 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Anyone have any idea how to go about getting the $20 credit? My employer (federal government) provides transit checks at no cost already, so I assume it should be pretty easy. What do I need to do? What does my personnel person need to do? And is the credit only useful as reimbursement for actual expenses? For example, do I get a $13 check if I spend $13 to fix a flat and submit a receipt, or do I just get a $20 check each month?

  • Anonymous
    December 31, 2008 - 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Anyone have any idea how to go about getting the $20 credit? My employer (federal government) provides transit checks at no cost already, so I assume it should be pretty easy. What do I need to do? What does my personnel person need to do? And is the credit only useful as reimbursement for actual expenses? For example, do I get a $13 check if I spend $13 to fix a flat and submit a receipt, or do I just get a $20 check each month?

  • Anonymous
    December 31, 2008 - 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Anyone have any idea how to go about getting the $20 credit? My employer (federal government) provides transit checks at no cost already, so I assume it should be pretty easy. What do I need to do? What does my personnel person need to do? And is the credit only useful as reimbursement for actual expenses? For example, do I get a $13 check if I spend $13 to fix a flat and submit a receipt, or do I just get a $20 check each month?

  • Yokota Fritz
    December 31, 2008 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Anon 8:40: First you need to find out if your agency will even offer that benefit for you. It's not required, even for Federal government agencies. Good luck!

  • Yokota Fritz
    December 31, 2008 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Anon 8:40: First you need to find out if your agency will even offer that benefit for you. It's not required, even for Federal government agencies. Good luck!

  • Yokota Fritz
    December 31, 2008 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Anon 8:40: First you need to find out if your agency will even offer that benefit for you. It's not required, even for Federal government agencies. Good luck!

  • Anonymous
    January 1, 2009 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

    That's my question as well: do I need to provide receipts/documentation for all of my biking expenes or do I simply receive an extra $20 a month? With that in mind, does my employer need to have receipts/proof on hand for all of their biking commuters? Any help would be much appreciated as my company is seriously considering implementing a program such as this for the year 2009.

  • Anonymous
    January 1, 2009 - 8:40 pm | Permalink

    That's my question as well: do I need to provide receipts/documentation for all of my biking expenes or do I simply receive an extra $20 a month? With that in mind, does my employer need to have receipts/proof on hand for all of their biking commuters? Any help would be much appreciated as my company is seriously considering implementing a program such as this for the year 2009.

  • Yokota Fritz
    January 1, 2009 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Anon1:40 – receipts are unlikely. Section 132 has almost no paperwork requirements. Frankly, this section of the IRS code is wide open to fraud and abuse — the transit checks are frequently available on Craigslist, for example.

  • Yokota Fritz
    January 1, 2009 - 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Anon1:40 – receipts are unlikely. Section 132 has almost no paperwork requirements. Frankly, this section of the IRS code is wide open to fraud and abuse — the transit checks are frequently available on Craigslist, for example.

  • Tom
    February 19, 2009 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I also commute to work via my bike. I would like to develop a mini proposal for my fortune 100 company that I work for… I am thinking this could be kind of a grass roots level of effort to promote this healthy lifestyle.

    Has anyone created a little powerpoint summary of the commuter law, examples of companies that have implemented, clarifications in a FAQ section like how many days do you need to commute a month, ideas on how to implement it, etc. This would be so helpful in preparing a proposal. Tom

  • Tom
    February 19, 2009 - 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I also commute to work via my bike. I would like to develop a mini proposal for my fortune 100 company that I work for… I am thinking this could be kind of a grass roots level of effort to promote this healthy lifestyle.Has anyone created a little powerpoint summary of the commuter law, examples of companies that have implemented, clarifications in a FAQ section like how many days do you need to commute a month, ideas on how to implement it, etc. This would be so helpful in preparing a proposal. Tom

  • Yokota Fritz
    February 19, 2009 - 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Tom, when you create this presentation let me know and I'll be glad to help you get the word out about it. I think you're breaking new ground here.

  • Yokota Fritz
    February 20, 2009 - 12:06 am | Permalink

    Tom, when you create this presentation let me know and I'll be glad to help you get the word out about it. I think you're breaking new ground here.

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