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Thread: Bike Reimbusement Programs - Are Any Other Federal Agencies Offering?

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveK View Post
    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

  2. #12
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    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.

  3. #13
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    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 . . . .

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by eminva View Post
    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.

  5. #15
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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
    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.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveK View Post
    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

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by FFX_Hinterlands View Post
    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!

  9. #19
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    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

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by eminva View Post
    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.

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