New Bill Would Provide a Tax Break for Bike Commuters

Photo: People for Bikes
Photo: People for Bikes

Bike commuters will get to write off up to $53 in monthly expenses, thanks to a new tax bill introduced in the House this week.

“Incentivizing bicycle commuting helps people stay active, promotes a clean environment and is good for the economy,” said co-sponsor Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) said in a press release announcing the legislation.

People who drive to work or take transit are already eligible tax break, allowing them to pay for up tp $265 in parking or fare-related expenses with pre-tax money — if their employer participates. But thanks to the tax bill passed by Republicans last year, those who commute by bike no longer enjoy a similar benefit.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Buchanan, Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), would fix that. It would allow bike commuters to deduct 20 percent of the parking and transit tax benefit, which is capped at $265 monthly. The bill would also allow commuters who cycle for part of their journey to write off those expenses in addition to a parking or transit benefit. The bill would also allow bike commuters to write off the cost of bike or e-bike share membership.

The previous bike commuter tax break, which Republicans ended just last year, was structured differently, as a reimbursement and was limited to $20 a month.

The new bill is welcome, but falls short of at least one European innovation. To encourage even more cycle commuting in Holland, the Dutch government pays workers 22 cents for every kilometer they pedal, the Huffington Post reported.

  • Cookie23

    As I recall in the previous version, companies had to apply for the benefit and offer it to their employees. If you r company did not offer this benefit you were out of luck. Has that changed?

  • dsallen7

    Finally some good news out of Washington.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The new bill is welcome, but falls short of at least one European innovation. To encourage even more cycle commuting in Holland, the Dutch government pays workers 22 cents for every kilometer they pedal.”

    The paperwork, and use it or lose it aspect, made the old benefit not worth the trouble. A waste of time. I would have hoped for something better, since it’s just a flier that isn’t going anywhere anyway.

    The big push should be with health insurers. You get a subsidy for health clubs, but not bicycle commuting.

  • walks bikes drives

    You get a subsidy for citibike from health insurance. But not for your own bike.

  • ambiguator

    I think you might be referring to the $20 / month bike fringe benefit, and it has not been taken away. (I still receive it monthly)

    I’m not a tax lawyer, so I don’t really know the details though.

  • ambiguator

    I’m still using the $20 / month bike fringe benefit, and I’ll say as an employee it’s pretty great. $240 / year free and clear is enough to keep my whip running smoothly. Would love to get ~$600 / year!

    Not sure how much overhead it is for our benefits admin though, you may be right on that end.

  • Daphna

    I want the European model. I want to be paid 22 cents for every kilometer I cycle!!
    While $53 a month would be great, and is better than $0, and is better than the previous $20 (which I did not even know about), it should be the same as the parking/fare-related amount of $265/month.

  • Daphna

    How do you get the $20 per month?

  • Jeff

    Would this be an “above the line” deduction? If not, it’s kind of useless for most people given the increase in the standard deduction.

  • ambiguator

    my employer offers it as a fringe benefit.
    i get a voucher mailed to me every month.
    i take the voucher to my local bike shop and sign it over.

  • motorock

    Great. So, the gentrifiers get more tax breaks- bike commuting not possible for anyone outside the gentrified areas but everyone, including this blog does not talk about the social aspect. Motorcycles, scooters and ebikes are far more practical and reliable for people who are outside the invisible gentrified line to commute to work in Manhattan- time to encourage them already- just like the Europeans do (including the Dutch mentioned here)

  • Tooscrapps

    This is dumb.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Just needs an app. Citibike can prove you used it. Someone needs to come up with the equivalent.

    What I don’t like about the tax break is the “use it or lose it” aspect. You can actually end up behind, after having to collect receipts all year.

    That and the fact that any objective pursued via tax breaks rather than expenditures tends to redistribute income up.

  • Allen Muchnick

    The mere introduction of this bill does not mean that “bike commuters will get to write off up to $53 in monthly expenses.” That would only happen if this billl is passed by both chambers of Congress and enacted into law. The previous “Bicycle Commuter Act” was a dud.

  • motorock

    Ah, so you have trouble comprehending realities? Great.

  • motorock

    For this to be meaningful for more people, NYC should give a tax credit to buy ebikes since not everyone from far out in the boroughs is able to bike in. Oslo gives $1200 to each resident and that helps offset the cost of a good ebike.

  • Tooscrapps

    Lets pick the ways this is dumb:

    1. Generalizing all cyclists as gentrifiers. Lots of people of all incomes use bikes.

    2. Pushing that motorcycles, etc are the ONLY solution: many cost a good chunk of change and have added costs to operate like insurance and gas. I’m not saying they aren’t a part of the solution. E-bikes make a lot of sense and would probably fit under this tax, since many states qualify them as bicycles.

    3. Failing to realize that this deduction could be paired with a transit pass, which unlocks a lot of potential for last mile solutions.

  • Boo

    that’s not true. Bikes are great for last mile access as well. people can bike to train stations in their areas. In SF people of all incomes ride bikes and utilize bike share.

  • motorock

    Not true for people who are not in the non-gentrified areas of Brooklyn etc- basically where Citibike does not exist- that would be great thought not ideal because then you still have to pay for the train. A lot of people do not like to come back and see their bikes stolen. Why price out people out of neighborhoods and then ask them to pay more just to to commute to work? We need more alternatives. Cycling is not a solution for everyone.

  • Tooscrapps

    4. Failing to realize that there are other places outside of Manhattan/NYC region.

  • Boo

    Bikeshare can easily be put there. In SF there are discounts for low income people to use it. It could also be scooters or whatever – it doesn’t matter. If more people in more neighborhoods could access jobs, there might be less pressure on gentrifying the few neighborhoods that have good transit access already.

  • Cycling is a solution for anyone who works within ten miles of where they live.

  • motorock

    I really should not have to explain this but I guess it’s hard for people to understand when they do not experience issues because they live in a privileged bubble-

    1. Everyone uses bikes but the biggest use of any mode of transport is for commuting to work. The equation changes drastically if they have to go to work in Manhattan from their far flung neighborhoods with poor transit connectivity.

    2. I never said “only” solution. And yes ebikes and motorcycles are all part of the solution and allows people to get back the time lost due to being priced out of neighborhoods that are closer to their place of work.

    3. This last mile solution is still unfair for people in non-gentrified areas trying to make it to commute to Manhattan for work. Asking them to bike to the subway and then take the subway is till much slower than having something (like an ebike or motorcycle) that leads to lost time that has more value than a few dollars. The subway is only a 7 minute walk for me but using a motorcycle halves my commute time. No reason why I should have to waste an extra 5 hours every week on commuting when there is a perfectly good alternative available.

    There are many ways to make life fair for everyone in the city- this is just a very simple solution to improve and equalize one aspect of it in NYC. Step in the shoes of other less privileged folks to understand depth of issues. As I mentioned elsewhere, something like giving $1200 for buying a ebike (as done in Oslo) seems like a better idea towards that.

  • thielges

    Ferdinand – That attitude is not helpful as you may have found when voicing that opinion at public meetings. It just reinforces the opinion that bicycling advocates are out of touch. Perhaps change “anyone” to “many people” for a more credible statement.

  • motorock

    Nope. It depends where you live. In Manhattan maybe but I live in Brooklyn, 10 miles from work- it would take me an hour plus to get to work because of the terrain and I would be sweaty and out of breath.

  • motorock

    While you fail to realize the realities of NYC and boroughs.

  • You are correct in noting that I should have said “many people” instead of “anyone”. No single solution is applicable to everyone.

    I have edited my comment.

  • I live on the Brooklyn-Queens border, ten miles from work. It takes me an hour-plus to ride to work; so I leave home an hour-plus before I need to get there. I arrive sweaty; so I bring a change of shirt.

    These are not problems.

  • Scott Rollans

    All this bill does is give bicycle commuters access to the kind of tax break already available to drivers and transit users. It’s not a special break for cyclists.

    If you’re advocating for scooters and ebikes to be included, that’s a separate argument.

    Also, plenty of low-income people live in the core areas of most American cities. There’s a big world outside the borders of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

  • Any benefit would be better than nothing. Personally not able to take advantage of benefit because none of it applies to me. I’ve no parking fees nor do I take transit as part of bike commute.

    What would work are incentives for mileage (there are tracking apps such as Strava, Garmin, Endomondo, etc.) and reimbursement for purchase, repair and expenses of personal bicycle.

    Bicycling takes place of my gym and is my best medicine for well-being and stress management.

  • motorock

    It can, but they dont. Citibike has monopoly.
    Gentrifying is a reality and a result of lot of things- not sure what you mean by making jobs accessible….

  • motorock

    Exactly- what works elsewhere may not always work in another place- though lessons should be learned from everywhere and bigger picture always kept in mind. I know that in SF, gentrification is a huge issue where again, it is an extra burden on the lower income people to ask to bike to the train and then take train to work and spend more hours commuting- esp when the other alternatives I mentioned are available. it is a larger social problem that cannot be fixed by giving a few dollars. Alternatives are a must- and while the intent of this bill is great, denial of other realities isn’t. The need is for more holistic solutions.
    Can you give an example how would biking to work would help a lower income person living far away from work because they have been priced out due to gentrification? Would that person be spending more time commuting than before? Would this stop gentrification or would it continue to push communities further away from where they work?

  • motorock

    These are problems- maybe you are okay with that effort- many aren’t or not able to. You need to think beyond yourself.

  • Boo

    hmm them having a monopoly to me sounds like a policy decision that can be changed. Here in SF we have a couple different bike share operators.

    Anyway, just saying usually the neighborhoods that are gentrifying have good access (transit or otherwise) to high paying jobs. Making more neighborhoods accessible to more jobs could hopefully take pressure off the few accessible and affordable areas to slow gentrification and also provide more job opportunity to lower income people.

  • While no solution is applicable to every single person, cycling is available to the vast majority of people.

    Also, anyone can pack a change of shirt. What’s more, the idea of leaving home at the hour necessary to get to work by starting time is a simple concept that literally every working person is expected to employ.

    Therefore, these are not problems.

  • motorock

    Again, sometimes people do not want to or have the luxury to spend that extra time commuting. There could a child to drop off at school, a dog to walk, get groceries from a market or anything else. You can’t judge people for wanting a shorter commute time.

    Cycling is available to many, as are other form of transport. That’s why tax credits to buy faster, less-strenuous ebikes could also work, as much as encouraging the other alternative forms too. Problems don’t go away by giving a few dollars.

  • motorock

    Yes, I agree. And what I am saying is that the way to make them more accessible is by encouraging forms of transport that actually equals commute times of those living in the gentrified areas (at least not a huge difference as it is now)- and this holds for any city.

  • Scott Rollans

    I’m not saying everyone can or should bike to work. I’m saying that many do—including many lower-income people—and this move restores a well-deserved tax break for them. That’s all.

  • Daniel Rhodey

    Employees are getting a tax break for parking. Think about that – each parking space is already subsidized by tax payers, customers, workers etc. who don’t even drive. Do you drive to work and access a ‘free’ parking space? What is a free parking space… well, there’s no such thing. Every time you part for free or cheap, you’re being subsidized by someone else. Parking spaces cost up to $50,000 each for businesses to build. If you would actually measure the socioeconomic flow on benefits of subsidizing active commutes (pollution, health, road degradation, congestion) it should be a shit load more than $53 a month.

  • Daniel Rhodey

    There is interesting research on the elasticity of time people are prepared to commute to work and it’s pretty consistent across the globe. It’s 1 hour.

  • Daniel Rhodey

    You’re really uninformed sir. Bike to transit is one of the most efficient transport combinations out there. Door to door. Have you ever heard of the Netherlands? Communities there are dense because there are few arterial roads and highways, people interact with one another and commuting by bike has kept these communities close and compact. Conversely, neighbours Belgium, who offer very healthy subsidies for all modes (but also contradictory for private and business vehicles) has very bad congestion, very high rates of traveling long distances to work. Why? Because people are subsidized to drive = more roads, more congestion, cheaper than it actually costs to drive.

  • Daniel Rhodey

    Again biking to the subway and taking a train is not ‘slow’. It’s door-to-door and efficient. For instance, there are very few places anywhere during a morning commute, where biking say (3-5km) and combining with train would be slower than taking the car all the way. Even old congested NY which you seem very attached to. You’re clearly not a transportation planner. You make many assumptions in your posts about who are the gentrifiers, what they are at fault for, you assume low income people all live in far-flung neighbourhoods with no research to back that up. You assume, I assume, that everyone works downtown…. if you look at the average income of cyclists it’s pretty even across the baord in most contexts. This means it’s a social equalizer. If you look at motorists there is a higher percentage of higher income earners. This notion that low-income people only bike is very uninformed and stupid.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e6314883502d44aae3a1b58520ef2f34200ab4a0212a8307d4cb0b64ba6a38f5.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b5b1996f1e7d5058ec7b155c0a7a4248ff2faa889e5f8228278a73b5de9bbe64.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/97b83e5136a6e911c9cf4db3b470945bc1002dcd5284e079006f3deedc87a353.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/16713faffff850ecba40fc267a7d92b683f46a11a37b955bd02abb37792bf1a8.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/76236a6e3b56099357ebbcce89f2cf7ec92683109a024aa05f497745d1e4a48d.png

  • motorock

    Parking is a different issue- and I ride to work on a motorcycle that reduces congestion and helps me beat the time taken on a train by half. All I am saying is that more alternative forms should be encouraged rather than saying that cycling is the ONLY way to do it- because in reality, it cannot be and it doesnt work for everyone.

  • motorock

    I am fine with that. My position is to promote other forms of transport too that can improve their lives more and not just stop at giving them a few dollars.

  • motorock

    Just because it is acceptable does not make it right or fair. Time is precious. This argument of “prepared to commute” sounds like someone who is higher income, privileged, most probably white, one who had never seen poverty or has not been forced to live further away from work because they are not able to pay the high rents that gentrified neighborhoods bring with them. Social equality can come when you make the living and commuting conditions equitable for everyone. There is a difference between people who choose to have a long commute (usually the higher income) and those who are forced to (usually lower income).

  • motorock

    The European model does not translate directly to the US cities- not even Amsterdam to NYC or SF. Some ideas are great and should be used but you have to see it in an American context of American cities and what is happening with owning or renting property and accessibility to different public or health utilities. Just saying, “look at Netherlands”, is a rather thin and poorly nuanced argument.

  • motorock

    Ah, cuss words are the weapon of those who do not understand diversity. Please sign for for DEI training immediately. If you did see cities like NYC or SF, you will understand why I say low income people are forced to stay in “far-flung” neighborhoods- the higher income ones stay even further because they can and have the means and luxury of time- huge difference there. Denying that won’t make it go away.

    In many cities, higher paying jobs are in the center- whatever that means to you (downtown, midtown, etc etc) and people want them. But they cannot always afford to live near those jobs. It is just the reality that starts to play into the whole social inequality aspect of the issue. It’s much more nuanced than posting a graphic that says nothing about socio-economic realities. As an example, look up the research into NYC bike lanes and who are he major users and from what neighborhoods. And try to live in those non-gentrified neighborhoods with affordable rent. Then try to get to work in downtown or midtown. Try different forms of transport. Then see what is most efficient and what saves you most time. If you say that time is not important, you are obviously more well-off and privileged than others.

  • Justin

    So this means that I can not pay tax on up to $53 a month? And thats only if I am itemizing and can exceed the standard deduction? I’M RICH BITCH !! NOT!! :-/

  • Grace Bedell

    This allows a company to give bikeshare to their employees and the employees won’t get taxed on it. Just like they can offer parking or transit passes to everyone, just just allowed them to do the same with bikeshare. Getting tax benefits for random bike repairs seems more difficult. The real winner in this is employees getting free access to bikeshare.

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