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View Full Version : Bike Reimbusement Programs - Are Any Other Federal Agencies Offering?



consularrider
01-06-2012, 10:42 AM
In case you missed this on Wednesday, the Washington Post's In the Loop (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/drivers-to-state-dept-get-incentive-to-pedal/2012/01/03/gIQAnLNGaP_story.html) column reports on the State Department beginng to offer a Bicycle Transportation Reimbursement.

DaveK
01-06-2012, 10:48 AM
I think this is just State adopting the $20/month bicycle commuting benefit allowed under the tax code since 2009 - http://www.thewashcycle.com/2009/03/irs-issues-direction-on-the-bicycle-commuter-benefit.html. It would be news if they matched the ridiculous parking benefit and gave employees $200+ per month to bike.

Dirt
01-06-2012, 10:52 AM
I inquired about this at my employer a few years back and got tired of trying to get them to implement it. This was back when it first came out in 2009. HR wasn't exactly receptive to the idea. It seemed quite complex and costly to implement for relatively few people to take advantage of. This was before LAW really published guidelines and suggestions for implementing. It appears a little more clear now. Maybe it is time for me to ask about this again.

Here's LAW's page on the Bicycle Commuter Tax Provision: http://www.bikeleague.org/news/100708faq.php

Dirt
01-06-2012, 11:01 AM
So sorry. I still call it LAW instead of LOB. No offense is intended. I'm old and feeble-minded. :D

americancyclo
01-06-2012, 11:07 AM
I think this is just State adopting the $20/month bicycle commuting benefit allowed under the tax code since 2009 - http://www.thewashcycle.com/2009/03/irs-issues-direction-on-the-bicycle-commuter-benefit.html. It would be news if they matched the ridiculous parking benefit and gave employees $200+ per month to bike.

I'm with DaveK on this one. I'd sign up for this if I got the same subsidy as a car driver.

Otherwise, I take the metro about once a week and it's simply not worth giving up my metro card for that $20/month.

dasgeh
01-06-2012, 12:45 PM
I'm planning to propose a set of cyclist benefits to my agency. My hope was to allow people to sign up as "fair weather" cyclists, where they get the biking benefit in the summer (April - September) and metro benefit the rest of the year. I know a lot of people who would sign up for it, if I can make it work. Of course, I need to actually read the law and stuff...

DaveK
01-06-2012, 12:53 PM
I'm with DaveK on this one. I'd sign up for this if I got the same subsidy as a car driver.

Otherwise, I take the metro about once a week and it's simply not worth giving up my metro card for that $20/month.

If I could get half and half or some combination it would be better. With the new SmartBenefits rules I now won't get a bike benefit at all... what I used to do was claim my transit benefit for a couple of months, let the excess build up in my account for emergencies, then switch to the bike benefit for the rest of the year. Now, since they reset the SmartBenefits amount every month, if I want a transit benefit at all I have to forgo the bike benefit. It's idiotic.

americancyclo
01-06-2012, 12:59 PM
Yeah, it would be nice to be able to adjust it on a monthly basis.

dbb
01-06-2012, 05:15 PM
The way the legislation was written seemed to provide an either-or for metro subsidy or bike reimbursement. I wrote Rep Moran at one point suggesting they discount the metro subsidy by $2 for every $1 in bike reimbursement. The agencies would benefit and the employee wouldn't be penalized for taking metro during inclement weather. Never heard back.

adamx
01-07-2012, 07:11 AM
good timing; i was going to ask the same. by an incredible stroke of luck yesterday, i emailed the 'right' person and have now won interest in implementing the act at Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Dept of Homeland Security. I was told that Domestic Nuclear Prep Office of DHS already implemented. i have all the forms and documents DNPO uses if anyone needs them.

is there a list out there of Feds implementing the Bicycle Commuter Act?

eminva
01-07-2012, 07:43 AM
If I could get half and half or some combination it would be better. With the new SmartBenefits rules I now won't get a bike benefit at all... what I used to do was claim my transit benefit for a couple of months, let the excess build up in my account for emergencies, then switch to the bike benefit for the rest of the year. Now, since they reset the SmartBenefits amount every month, if I want a transit benefit at all I have to forgo the bike benefit. It's idiotic.

Dave, does your employer use WageWorks? If so, my colleagues and I have discovered a loophole to get around the monthly reset. It's kind of complicated, but I can explain it if anyone is interested.

My problem is that my employer doesn't offer the bike benefit. I know it is on the menu of services WageWorks offers based on info I've found elsewhere on the WageWorks site. I would ask about it, but I doubt I'd use it because my cost of public transportation even 20% of the time swamps the $20 bicycle benefit.

Liz

FFX_Hinterlands
01-07-2012, 07:51 AM
My employer offers the bicycle benefit and it's managed by SHPS. You can set up a recurring order so you don't have to re-order every month. You can get either the transit benefit OR bicycle but not both. But you can change from month to month. My employer does not have eligibility clauses (over 50% of your commute, etc) but you must state that you're using the stipend to enable you to get to work by bike.

Personally I have about $80 in checks sitting here to spend. I try to spend it on my LBS, A1 Cycling or Bikes @ Vienna.

dbb
01-07-2012, 08:05 AM
I just got this from Rep Blumenauer's site. The color is mine for emphasis. The issue seems to be the either-or aspect of the subsidy. At HUD, any metro subsidy that isn't used during the month is recaptured (in December, I used about $4 of the subsidy I was eligible for). I suppose it is time for another round of letters to my elected representatives.

The Bicycle Commuter Act

The most recent piece of legislation supported by the Bike Caucus is Congressman Blumenauer's Bicycle Commuter Act, which allows employers to offer a fringe benefit of $20 per month for employees for the purchase of a bicycle and any bicycle improvements, repairs, or storage costs.
How the Legislation Works:

For employees who regularly commute to work by bicycle, employers may offset the costs of bicycle purchase, improvement, repair, and storage at the rate of $20 per month. Based on how the employer chooses to offer the benefits, the employee may bring receipts to be reimbursed, may sign up for regular monthly payments, or devise some sort of voucher system with their employer.

Bike commuters are not allowed to receive transit or parking benefits in addition to the bike benefit.

The bike commuter benefit can be provided by employers beginning January 1, 2009.

How the Statute Reads:

Section 132 of the tax code excludes from gross income certain fringe benefits offered by employers to employees, including transportation benefits. Under the new law, “qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements” are included within the definition of transportation benefits. Here’s the new law:

26 U.S.C. §132
(f) Qualified transportation fringe

(1) In general
For purposes of this section, the term "qualified transportation fringe" means any of the following provided by an employer to an employee:
(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.

(2) Limitation on exclusion
The amount of the fringe benefits which are provided by an employer to any employee and which may be excluded from gross income under subsection (a)(5) shall not exceed –
(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.

(5) Definitions
For purposes of this subsection –
(F) DEFINITIONS RELATED TO BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT-

(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term `qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement' means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.

(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term `applicable annual limitation' means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.

(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term `qualified bicycle commuting month' means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee--

(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee's residence and place of employment, and
(II) does not receive any [other transportation fringe] benefit . . . .

DaveK
01-07-2012, 03:51 PM
Dave, does your employer use WageWorks? If so, my colleagues and I have discovered a loophole to get around the monthly reset. It's kind of complicated, but I can explain it if anyone is interested.

Not that I know of, I have to fill out a dead tree form to switch my benefits each time and submit it to HR.

JeffC
01-07-2012, 07:24 PM
AFAIK, this is just the State Dept implementing the provision of 26 USC 132, the so called bike commuter benefit. I am heavily involved in tax law so I go crazy reading about people butchering the terms of it, kind of the same way a French teacher would go nuts hearing mispronounced French words over and over again.

The current, critical limitations on this tax benefits are two fold. First, your employer must offer it to you. If they don't you are out of luck. I have heard that not even the EPA offers it to their employees--go figure, you'd think they would be motivated. I know the IRS and Treasury Dept don't offer it to their employees either, not sure about Congress. The second limit is that if your employer offers it, you cannot also get the transit (Metro, VRE etc. in the DC area) or parking reimbursement. It is one or the other, all or nothing, no mixing and matching. Even if my employer offered it, I probably would not get it. Only if I could mix and match somehow the transit and bike commuting would I do it.

I could go on and on about how lame it is that we cannot mix and match. Many people bike to the subway and rent a Metro locker ($200 per year) and then take the subway, etc.

FFX_Hinterlands
01-07-2012, 08:48 PM
I could go on and on about how lame it is that we cannot mix and match. Many people bike to the subway and rent a Metro locker ($200 per year) and then take the subway, etc.

It seems the way it's implemented at my workplace you can't take transit and bike in the same month, but you could do transit one month and bicycle the next. The bicycle check itself is valid for over a year, so you could stock up a few of them for use later. It still doesn't help someone who bikes 2x week and takes metro the other three.

eminva
01-07-2012, 09:01 PM
Not that I know of, I have to fill out a dead tree form to switch my benefits each time and submit it to HR.

You must not -- you would know. There is a website you use to make any changes. Our company also uses it to administer the Health Care FSA.

Liz

Tim Kelley
01-09-2012, 08:19 AM
The bicycle check itself is valid for over a year, so you could stock up a few of them for use later.

I just used $200 worth of Commuter Checks I'd been saving up at Revolution Cycles this weekend on a pair of new shoes. Felt good!

eminva
01-10-2012, 03:58 PM
Inspired by this thread, I just asked our Benefits Department if they would consider offering the Bike Benefit. Here is the reply I got:

"This was reviewed recently and participation in this option of the program would be low and management feels that the administrative costs are too high for such low participation rates. However, since the plan is reviewed periodically, there may be a chance that this option may be included sometime in the future."

Oh well, I tried.

Liz

FFX_Hinterlands
01-11-2012, 06:06 AM
Inspired by this thread, I just asked our Benefits Department if they would consider offering the Bike Benefit. Here is the reply I got:

"This was reviewed recently and participation in this option of the program would be low and management feels that the administrative costs are too high for such low participation rates. However, since the plan is reviewed periodically, there may be a chance that this option may be included sometime in the future."

Oh well, I tried.

Liz

Liz, ask 5 other bike commuters to email the same question, then you'll have given it a good try.

Arlingtonrider
01-11-2012, 06:36 AM
I'm another one of those who uses metro just enough to make the metro subsidy much more worthwhile than the bicycle reimbursement program. Rather than reimbursement, I'd like to see Federal agencies become more bicycle friendly by working on things like indoor bike parking, showers, and getting management to encourage bike commuting. I have those benefits at my office, but I know others don't.

eminva
01-11-2012, 08:43 AM
Liz, ask 5 other bike commuters to email the same question, then you'll have given it a good try.

That is a good idea, but complicated. Most of the bike commuters I know are moving to our facility in Rockville in a couple of months (only accessible by car). At the same time, I'll be moving to our main building across the street so I will have to figure out who my fellow bike commuters are at that facility. But I will hit them up. :D

Liz