On June 6th in the U.S. House of Representatives a bill was introduced which would add bike-sharing as an acceptable tax-free bicycle commuting expense. If voted into law, the Commuter Parity Act of 2013
would allow employers to provide to their employees up to $35/month for "qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement" which means "any employer reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, or bikesharing
program, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment." The bill also makes private bike needs pre-tax for the same amount and brings transit up to $220, which is the same amount that a single occupant vehicle gets. (Note: To those from outside the U.S. who don't understand why a solo driver would get a pre-tax benefit for driving to work, and one that is greater than for taking transit to work, welcome to a quick lesson on how our Congress sometimes malfunctions.)
Over the past couple of years I've called the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) multiple times about whether laws, such as the Bicycle Commuter Act and Commuter Choice Act, accommodate bike-sharing. The first time I was told "Yes, they do apply". A second call to confirm my disbelief brought, "No, they don't." A third call simply confirmed the IRS was as confused as I. They told me that I'd need to write a formal letter to the IRS requesting a determination for a special employer and a specific bike-sharing service, and pay a large fee for their research. Their response would only apply to my specific question and not to the hundreds of thousands of other employers who could possibly benefit from the same answer. Crazy, ain't it?
This bill makes so much more sense and it does need to be written into law with the word "bike-sharing" specifically called out so as there won't be any confusion... other than the fact that the term isn't listed yet in any dictionary that I've seen. As long as Congress is using The Bike-sharing Blog's definition on the top right corner of the website, we'll be set!
For The Bike-sharing Blog's U.S. readers, write to your Congressperson
asking them to support H.R. 2288: Commuter Parity Act of 2013. Making bike-share membership and usage fees pre-tax is a great way to remove another hurdle and make bike-sharing that much more useful and economical to the public.