Biking to work will soon make your commute a little less taxing.
The Bicycle Commuter Act (H.R.807, S.2635), which Congress passed as part of this fall’s $700 billion bailout, will give bike commuters a pre-tax benefit.
“The Bicycle Commuter Act has been in the works for many years now,” Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association said. “We’re excited to see how this plays out.”
Under the new act, employees who ride their bicycles to work will receive a pre-tax benefit of $20 per month, which they can use to pay for new bikes, storage, maintenance or repairs. But Gilliland said this is only the first step of what he hopes will become a larger effort.
“The money isn’t too much,” he said, “but we’re hoping to improve this.”
About 2 percent of district residents ride their bicycles to work, according to the WABA, and in some neighborhoods, the proportion is as high as 8 to 10 percent.
The act was spearheaded by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), co-chairman of the Congressional Bike Caucus, and James Oberstar (D-Minn.) The act was attached to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 passed on Oct. 3.
The Internal Revenue Service is still working out the details of proving eligibility for the tax break.
The hope is that this will motivate D.C. residents to ride their bicycles to work instead of driving cars. The act aims to raise awareness about pollution and to serve as an incentive for people to reduce pollution.
Some Georgetown faculty said limited on-campus parking and access to public transportation provides enough incentive to ride bicycles to work.
“If I lived in the city, I would definitely cycle because of the environment and the convenience. The tax break would not be an incentive,” Professor Louise Hipwell of the Italian Department said.
WABA plans to promote the new tax break by working with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The council already has a program in place, Commuter Connections, to inform employees about methods of transit. It also plans to work with the D.C. Council, particularly with Councilman Tommy Wells.
“We need to get employers and people eligible to know about it so that they can then take advantage of it. For folks who have thought about riding a bike but haven’t made the switch, this could be a great incentive to spark this change,” said Charles Allen, Councilman Wells’ chief of staff.
“I think the act will certainly help,” Gilliland said. “It’s a step in the right direction.”