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Thread: HR 990 - Commuter Parity Act of 2015

  1. #1
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    Default HR 990 - Commuter Parity Act of 2015

    Rep Peter King (NY) has introduced the Commuter Parity Act of 2015 https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-...hr990%22%5D%7D of 2015 (H.R. 990). This bill is another run at the earlier commuter parity bills that are trying to balance the transit and parking subsidies. The bill seeks to amend Section 132 https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/132 of the Internal Revenue Code. While I don’t have skin in that game (I can’t get parking at work and if I were to commute by WMATA my monthly fare would be less than the old max), I do have an interest in the Bicycle Commuter Reimbursement however.

    As H.R. 990 is currently worded, it maintains the prohibition on simultaneous receipt of transit subsidy and the bicycle commuter reimbursement. If your employer offers the bicycle commuter reimbursement, you are not eligible for a conventional transit subsidy. As the tax code is currently written (with a $20 Bicycle Commuter Reimbursement), just a few days of Metro use would consume the entire amount. If somebody were commuting from Crystal City to L’Enfant Plaza (peak fare $2.15), the $20/month would offset just under one week on Metrorail.

    The bill changes the maximum amount that can be subsidized (without tax issues) to $235 per month for transit and $35 per month for bicycle commuting. The suggestions below would change a few words to permit a total eligibility of $235 per month that could be distributed (with limits) to support the needs of the commuter. In my case, my agency limits my WMATA fare eligibility to about $65 per month because of my short commute. I could choose to receive $35 for the bicycle commuter benefit and the $30 on a WMATA fare card.

    I think our elected representatives should be asked to sign on as sponsors (currently the co-sponsors are Earl Blumenauer (OR), James McGovern (MA), Sean Maloney (NY), Randy Hultgren (IL), Robert Dold (IL), Lance Leonard (NJ), Daniel Lipinski (IL), and Robert Wittman (VA)) of this bill and to make the amendments presented below. Note that none of the folks that represent our areas are listed.

    I think this bill and the changes I have proposed will strengthen bicycle commuting in the Washington area and nationwide.

    I will post a copy of the letters I write when I finish them.

    Below is an extract of H.R. 990. This is attached HR 990 and Changes.pdf (with my comments in text boxes and I have highlighted text (in red and bold italics) that is particularly relevant. I wasn't able to get the formatting straight in this post.

    My comments are:

    Para (f)(2) - This maintains the either/or nature of eligibility for transit and bicycle commuting programs. The challenge is that most bicycle commuters don’t have the flexibility to be full time bike commuters. In the DC area, the bike commuter benefit would be equaled by one week of metro commuting from East Falls Church to Metro Center (one way, peak fare is $3.55)

    If the IRS code were changed (via this legislation) so para (f)(2)(A) read “$235 per month in the case of the aggregate of the benefits described in subparagraphs (A), (B) and (D) of paragraph (1) and the limitations on exclusion in this paragraph” a frequent bicycle commuter wouldn’t be penalized for using other forms of mass transit.

    Para (f)(5)(F) - This allows a recipient maintains the either/or nature of eligibility for transit and bicycle commuting programs. The challenge is that most bicycle commuters don’t have the flexibility to be full time bike commuters. In the DC area, the bike commuter benefit would be equaled by one week of metro commuting from East Falls Church to Metro Center (one way, peak fare is $3.55)

    If the IRS code were changed (via this legislation) so para (f)(5)(F) were changed to read “… reasonable expenses incurred by the employee for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, and/or bikesharing program, … “ a regular bike commuter could use the bicycle commuter subsidy to pay for personal bicycle expenses as well as the purchase of a bikesharing membership.




    SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the ``Commuter Parity Act of 2015''.

    SEC. 2. QUALIFIED TRANSPORTATION FRINGE.
    (a) In General.--Subsection (f) of section 132 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended to read as follows:
    ``(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:
    (A) Transportation in a commuter highway vehicle if such transportation is in
    connection with travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.
    (B) Any transit pass.
    (C) Qualified parking.
    (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--
    (A) $235 per month in the case of the aggregate of the benefits described in
    subparagraphs (A) and (B) of paragraph (1),

    (B) $235 per month in the case of qualified parking, and
    (C) $35 per month for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.
    (3) Cash reimbursements.--For purposes of this subsection, the term `qualified
    transportation fringe' includes a cash reimbursement by an employer to an employee for a
    benefit described in paragraph (1). The preceding sentence shall apply to a cash
    reimbursement for any transit pass only if a voucher or similar item which may be
    exchanged only for a transit pass is not readily available for direct distribution by the
    employer to the employee.
    (4) No constructive receipt.--No amount shall be included in the gross income of an
    employee solely because the employee may choose between any qualified transportation
    fringe and compensation which would otherwise be includible in gross
    income of such employee.
    (5) Definitions.--For purposes of this subsection--
    (A) Transit pass.--The term `transit pass' means any pass, token, farecard,
    voucher, or similar item entitling a person to transportation (or transportation
    at a reduced price) if such transportation is--
    (i) on mass transit facilities (whether or not publicly owned), or
    (ii) provided by any person in the business of transporting persons for
    compensation or hire if such transportation is provided in a vehicle
    meeting the requirements of subparagraph (B)(i).
    (B) Commuter highway vehicle.--The term `commuter highway vehicle' means
    any highway vehicle--
    (i) the seating capacity of which is at least 6 adults (not including the driver), and
    (ii) at least 80 percent of the mileage use of which can reasonably be
    expected to be--
    (I) for purposes of transporting employees in connection with travel
    between their residences and their place of employment, and
    (II) on trips during which the number of employees transported for such
    purposes is at least \1/2\ of the adult seating capacity of such
    vehicle (not including the driver).
    (C) Qualified parking.--The term `qualified parking' means parking provided to an
    employee on or near the business premises of the employer or on or near a location
    from which the employee commutes to work by transportation described in
    subparagraph (A), in a commuter highway vehicle, or by carpool. Such term shall not
    include any parking on or near property used by the employee for residential
    purposes.
    (D) Transportation provided by employer.-- Transportation referred to in paragraph
    (1)(A) shall be considered to be provided by an employer if such transportation is
    furnished in a commuter highway vehicle operated by or for the employer.
    (E) Employee.--For purposes of this subsection, the term `employee' includes an
    individual who is an employee within the meaning of section 401(c)(1).
    (F) Qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.-- For the purposes of this
    subsection, the term `qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement' means any
    employer reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee for the
    purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, or bikesharing
    program, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's
    residence and place of employment.

    (6) Inflation adjustment.--
    (A) In general.--In the case of any taxable year beginning in a calendar year after 2016,
    the dollar amounts contained in paragraph (2) shall be increased by an amount
    equal to--
    (i) such dollar amount, multiplied by
    (ii) the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the
    calendar year in which the taxable year begins, by substituting `calendar year
    2015' for `calendar year 1992'.
    (B) Rounding.--If any increase determined under subparagraph (A) is not a multiple of
    $5, such increase shall be rounded to the next lowest multiple of $5.
    (7) Coordination with other provisions.--For purposes of this section, the terms `working condition fringe' and `de minimis fringe' shall not include any qualified transportation fringe (determined without regard to paragraph (2)).''.
    (b) Conforming Amendments.--Sections 403(b)(3)(B), 414(s)(2), 415(c)(3)(D)(ii) of such Code are each amended by striking ``132(f)(4),''.
    (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act, in taxable years ending after such date.
    <all>

  2. #2
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    While this offers a slight improvement over the present situation, that really just speaks to how messed up the present situation is.

    <rant> Why do we structure commuter benefits so that they increase the further one lives from work (thereby incentivizing sprawl)? And why are bicycle commuters capped at a lower amount than everyone else? What public interest is served by rewarding people for getting off their bikes and into perpetually delayed underground tubes? </rant>

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