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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bill would make bike-sharing benefits tax-deductible (updated) @BikePortland

Bike share demo-9-8
Not considered public transit by the IRS. Yet.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer is cosponsoring a bill to officially recognize bike sharing as the newest category of public transit, at least in the eyes of the IRS.
Unfortunately, the bill is limited by a persistent oversight in tax policy that restricts its benefits to those who both live and work in areas that have bikesharing stations.
It's a new goal for the city transportation commissioner turned Congressman, who spent years pushing for the IRS's first bike commuting benefit. The $20-a-month deduction finally passed as part of the 2008 bank bailout (despite Blumenauer's "no" vote on that package).
Neither the existing bike commute deduction or Blumenauer's proposal would affect personal income taxes. Instead, they let employers (including governments and nonprofits) reimburse workers for bike expenses or bike sharing passes like any other fringe benefit, and treat that cost as a business expense.
The effect would be to encourage U.S. companies to offer cheap or free bike share memberships as a benefit to their employees, just as many now do for transit passes or for auto parking. As we reported in the Monday Roundup last month, the IRS ruled this fall that bike sharing doesn't count as "mass transit facilities," and that Congressional action would therefore be required for it to become a recognized fringe benefit.

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