>The Bicycle Commuter Act, S1093, introduced by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), would allow people who travel to work by bicycle to receive the same commuting tax credits as those who travel by vehicle or public transit. The current benefits are realized under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which allows employers to offer employees up to $100 a month for public transportation options and up to $190 per month for qualified parking plans, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA.
>Additionally, in the House of Representatives, a companion has been introduced by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Mark Foley (R-Florida). That bill, HR 1052, introduced in March, has 25 co-sponsors.
>The eligible commuter purchases are tax free if the employer makes them on behalf of the employee and would allow employees who choose a bicycle commute to collect a cash reimbursement that sponsors said would help defray costs related to maintaining the condition of their bicycles. However, employees who opt for a cash reimbursement will realize a taxable event.
“People who bike to work help reduce pollution in the air and congestion and wear and tear on our roads,” Wyden said. The legislation “will help to promote this environmentally friendly, alternative form of transportation.”
“By including bicycle commuting as an eligible mode of alternative transportation under the transportation fringe benefit, the Bicycle Commuter Act will ensure that bicycle commuters will have access to the benefits already available to individuals who commute by mass transit and van pool,” Snowe said. “This straightforward but significant addition not only provides fairness to commuters traveling by bike, but would also help achieve the broader goals of the transportation fringe benefit provision by encouraging healthy, environmental, community-oriented commuting.”
>The legislation was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which will write the tax portions of the legislation that will succeed TEA-21. The Transportation Department’s (DOT) reauthorization proposal is silent on the transportation fringe benefit, an official said, because the department does not propose to change the existing law. The provisions included in TEA-21 in Section 9010 increased the amount of the benefit, but the DOT official said because the department is not altering the program, the calendar year 2003 benefit amounts will continue into the next authorization period.Companies would not be required to participate in the program, and if they do, they do not have to offer the highest amount allowed under the law.