Bike Commuter Tax Threatened

As Congress considers a federal tax overhaul a really bad idea has entered the mix. The Senate version of the bill would repeal a provision, in place since 2009, which allows employers to provide their workers with a $20 per month tax-free commuter benefit.

It’s not unusual for employers to provide free or subsidized parking for their employees who drive to work. In urban areas that benefit might be worth $100 a month or more, but even in vast office parks where parking might seem free there is a cost to the land, building the parking lots, maintaining the pavement, plowing, etc.

Sen. Ron Johnson

So, it seems fair to provide people who ride a bike to work or take mass transit a benefit as well. After all, they’re not taking up space in the parking lot and cyclists are getting exercise that will likely improve their health leading to less lost sick time and costs to a company-supported health care plan.

Curiously, the Senate bill would leave in place the benefits for using mass transit, but single out bicyclists for elimination of their benefit. While transit is great, it would seem that cycling has even more positive impacts because of the health benefits of exercise.

Both the League of American Bicyclists and People for Bikes are fighting this with their lobbyists at the federal level. But here in Wisconsin we can help as well by contacting our representatives in the House and Senate.

You can contact U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson by clicking on their names.

Sen. Tammy Badlwin

You can find your representative in the House by going to the House website and entering your zip code.

You can put it in your own words or cut and paste the message below:

Please oppose a Senate provision in the tax ball, which would eliminate the $20 per month tax-free commuter benefit that employers can now provide to their employees who ride a bicycle to work. This benefit is good for employers because it reduces pressure for them to provide expensive car parking and it is good for employees because it encourages them to live a healthier lifestyle.

The fate of the tax bill is far from certain, but let’s make sure that this provision does not make it through. Thank you!

About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

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