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Old 02-15-05, 10:29 PM   #1
randya
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Blumenauer and Foley Introduce Bike Commuter Act

BLUMENAUER INTRODUCES BILL TO BENEFIT EMPLOYEES WHO BIKE TO WORK
http://blumenauer.house.gov/Newsroom...px?NewsID=1165

Feb 15, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.) today introduced the Bike Commuter Act, legislation to allow employees who bike to work the same financial incentives that are available for parking and mass transit. The bill would change the Transportation Fringe Benefit of the tax code to include bike commuters.

“It's time to level the playing field for bicycle commuters,” said Blumenauer. “Bicycling is one of the cleanest, healthiest, most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transportation that exists today. People who bike to work should have the same financial incentives as those who use transit or participate in a qualified parking plan.”

Currently, employers may offer a Transportation Fringe Benefit to their employees for commuting to work. Employees who take advantage of this program may receive a tax exemption benefit totaling $200 for participating in qualified parking plans or $105 for transit and van-pool expenses. The Bike Commuter Act would extend these same Transportation Fringe Benefits to employees who choose to commute by bicycle.

According to the League of American Bicyclists nearly 500,000 cyclists regularly commute to work. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, bicycles are second only to cars as a preferred mode of transportation, further demonstrating their potential for commuter use. Many Americans own one or more bicycles, but limit their use to recreational purposes. In addition, since the adoption of ISTEA in 1991, federal spending on bicycle facilities and infrastructure has increased dramatically, improving the bicycling environment in a variety of communities.

“Across the country people are working to create more livable communities that include reduced traffic congestion, improved air quality, increase neighborhood safety and decreased petroleum dependence” said Blumenauer. “The federal government should do its part to support these goals by providing transportation benefits to people who choose to commute in a healthy, environmental, and neighborhood-friendly fashion.”

Blumenauer, founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus, introduced his bill in anticipation of the upcoming “Bike Week on Capitol Hill.” Bicycling advocates from across the country are holding a Bike Summit in Washington, DC from March 16-18, focusing on federal policy and advocacy. Blumenauer also invited Members of Congress to re-join the Bike Caucus, which had 164 members from both parties last Congress, to show their support for bicycling.
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Old 02-16-05, 12:23 AM   #2
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As the "Transportation Coordinator" for my company to help us comply with Oregon DEQ and USA EPA rules for clean air, I really hope this goes into effect. As a regular (4 day-a-week) bicycle commuter, it would provide me with an incentive for employess, and some repairs for my bike too.

John
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Old 02-16-05, 07:36 AM   #3
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I thought the Bush administration eliminated all funding for these bike programs? Why are they introducing this bill if there's no money for it?
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Old 02-16-05, 07:39 AM   #4
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I thought the Bush administration eliminated all funding for these bike programs? Why are they introducing this bill if there's no money for it?
I think that they are most likely talking about a tax exemption.
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Old 02-16-05, 12:42 PM   #5
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I now get $25 a month (it's taxable) from my employer for commuting by bike.
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Old 02-16-05, 01:50 PM   #6
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Monitoring and auditing will be a HUGE issue.
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Old 02-16-05, 02:08 PM   #7
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Monitoring and auditing will be a HUGE issue.
How will it be more difficult than tracking transit subsidies or free parking perks?
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Old 02-16-05, 02:50 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by powers2b
Monitoring and auditing will be a HUGE issue.
There are far more people getting all sorts of tax benefits for other reasons (transit, parking, real estate, business, children, education, hybrid cars...) The relatively few bicycle commuters who would take advantage of this program would hardly tax (no pun intended, really) the system.
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Old 02-16-05, 03:52 PM   #9
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This doesn't work. The "incentive" is nada.

If you want to encourage bike commuting and provide benefits for bike commuting, law makers need to start thinking outside the box.

Why have employer's get a benefit when employees need the benefit?
Why dilute this miniscule benefit and have it a deduction instead of a credit?
Why not make this available to all bike commuters?
Why not reward those who commute just a week at the same rate as those who commute longer?

Suggestions:
1. Treat this as a special special line item AFTER taxes owed are figured as a special Tax Credit, ala, "Did you commute to work during this tax year", if so, complete form XYZ.
2. Form XYZ would be similar to the form for auto mileage, but simplier:
2.1 Employer(s)
2.2 Distance from home(s) to Employer(s)
2.3 Number of days commuted in this tax year
2.4 Beginning mileage
2.5 Ending mileage
2.6 Log files and maintenance records available for mileage verification?
2.7 If 2.6 is true, multiply 2.3 x $1.00. If 2.6 is false, enter $0.00
2.8 Carry over amount on line 2.7 as Tax Credit

Maximum cost/taxpayer is only $250/year. Number taking advantage would be small, but impact to bikers could be huge. Such a simple concept,
EITHER you drive to work and pay big dollars,
OR you get paid an extra $1 for each day you bike to work.

I know, it's a novel idea: rewarding people directly for good behavior and eliminating the middle men who siphon off the rewards. Theoretically a Republican adminstration should be more receptive to a Democratic adminstration.
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Old 02-16-05, 03:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiYoSilver
Why have employer's get a benefit when employees need the benefit?
Why dilute this miniscule benefit and have it a deduction instead of a credit?
Why not make this available to all bike commuters?
Why not reward those who commute just a week at the same rate as those who commute longer?
You know, in a few short questions, you managed to summarize my objection to this. Good job.

Why shouldn't the commuter get the benefit? Why shouldn't the commuter get a credit instead of a deduction that most bike commuters won't take anyway because, and I'm just guessing here, most bicycle commuters probably file the short form and take the standard deductions anyway!
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Old 02-16-05, 03:57 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by powers2b
Monitoring and auditing will be a HUGE issue.
As opposed to all the other tax-break handouts that are given out now?
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Old 02-16-05, 04:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vincenzosi
You know, in a few short questions, you managed to summarize my objection to this. Good job.

Why shouldn't the commuter get the benefit? Why shouldn't the commuter get a credit instead of a deduction that most bike commuters won't take anyway because, and I'm just guessing here, most bicycle commuters probably file the short form and take the standard deductions anyway!
Thank you. The neatest thing about a tax credit is it should be available for both short and long forms.

later, got to run
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Old 02-16-05, 06:27 PM   #13
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Tax deductions, like credits, could be used by those who take the standard deduction if congress specifies so in the law.

I believe that the existing commuter benefit is implemented through the employer because the payments have to be made directly from the employer to the parking garage, mass transit, etc. I don't belive that the employee gets to touch the money first. This simplifies record keeping and reduces fraud.

I would expect that the bill recently introduced would only apply to those expenses that would be similar. Other than parking expenses, I can't see what expenses could be paid directly from the employer. If you use a bike in conjunction with mass transit, you would already be covered if your employer participates in the current program.

EDIT: I should also add that the expenses are paid with pre-tax income and you should not have to claim anything on you taxes since your reported income is reduced by the amount of the benefit.

So, how many people pay to park their bike? How much do you pay?
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Old 02-16-05, 06:48 PM   #14
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I pay $10 per month
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Old 02-16-05, 07:19 PM   #15
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It makes no difference whether you actually pay to park your bike or not. The proposed legislation simply offers a financial incentive to commute by bike instead of driving. Most employers currently only offer financial incentives to drive (employer subsidized parking, or vast amounts of free parking) or to commute by transit. Y'all are making this way more complicated than it is - just answer the simple question below.

Do you think more people would commute to work by bike if they were offered financial incentives to do so?
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Old 02-16-05, 07:57 PM   #16
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If there was some way that people would be confident they'd actual get that money, sure. I don't see this as a big incentive because, knowing the way things work, most people would never actually claim it, not know about it, or it wouldn't mean much in the end.

Financial incentives? Yes. Tax deductions, no.
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Old 02-16-05, 08:18 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randya
It makes no difference whether you actually pay to park your bike or not. The proposed legislation simply offers a financial incentive to commute by bike instead of driving. Most employers currently only offer financial incentives to drive (employer subsidized parking, or vast amounts of free parking) or to commute by transit. Y'all are making this way more complicated than it is - just answer the simple question below.

Do you think more people would commute to work by bike if they were offered financial incentives to do so?
The press release stated, "same financial incentives that are available for parking and mass transit." This implies that they propose to extend the existing program to cover the same types of expenses for cyclists.

Of course, what, if anything, comes out of Congress may not resemble what goes in. Congress sometimes acts like a human digestion system. So there's no telling what might be covered in the end. I would certainly not expect that cyclists will receive some sort of cash money in reward for cycling.

In my case, I subscribe to a vanpool that is elible for the existing commuting program. I ride my bike to and from the vanpool. Unfortunately, my employer does not participate in the program, so my payments to the van pool ($50/month) come staight out of my pocket and are not deductible off my income tax return. However, my employer does provide a $250/year incentive to do certain health reated activities - mainly regular exercise. So, in a sense, I get paid to ride my bike.
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Old 02-18-05, 05:57 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randya
Do you think more people would commute to work by bike if they were offered financial incentives to do so?
Probably not. Motorists already are willing to pay a huge premium for the "privilege" of driving alone to work. Unless the payoff is large, most Americans will still want to drive.
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Old 02-18-05, 06:04 PM   #19
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Probably not. Motorists already are willing to pay a huge premium for the "privilege" of driving alone to work. Unless the payoff is large, most Americans will still want to drive.
I agree completely. It's hard to trump complacency. The payoff would have to be huge. There is a very large portion of the population who cringes at the very thought of exercise.
However, as a regular commuter, I wouldn't turn my nose up at a little extra incentive.
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