- A new bill in Congress would reinstate a tax benefit for bike commuters.
- Should it pass, cyclists would be able to deduct about $53 a month for biking to work.
- A previous $20 bicycle commuter tax benefit was struck down in 2017.
Until recently, Americans who biked to work could claim a small tax benefit from the federal government. Now, some lawmakers want to bring it back-and offer even more money to cyclists.
Congress in 2009 established a $20-per-month reimbursement for bike commuters, a small step toward giving cyclists the kind of tax benefits available to drivers and transit riders through their employers. But in 2017, a tiny provision slipped into the Republican tax bill suspended that benefit.
This month, a bipartisan trio of lawmakers known informally as the “bike caucus”-Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Vern Buchanan of Florida-introduced a bill that would offer a full pre-tax deduction to help cover cyclists’ commuting costs. These include repairs, tune-ups, or even a bike share membership.
“This bill doesn’t just reinstate what we used to have, but really makes some improvements to the program,” said Ken McLeod, policy director for the League of American Bicyclists, a national bike advocacy group.
Drivers and public transit riders can deduct up to $265 a month of their commuting and parking costs (if their employers participate in the program). This bill would put the bicycle benefit at 20 percent of that rate, which comes to about $53 per month. If those other commuter benefits rise, so would the one for cycling.
That’s a step up from the flat $20 reimbursement, but why only 20 percent of what drivers get?
“People believe there are fewer costs associated with bike commuting,” McLeod said. “They didn’t want to give money away to bicyclists. They wanted to have a benefit that was scaled to the costs of bicycling.”
He estimated that $53 a month could pay for basic repairs, a bike share membership, or the purchase of a cheap bike over time. It would not cover the cost of, say, an e-bike or cargo bike. Changes in the bicycle market may require a higher amount down the road, McLeod said, but for now the benefit is a great starting point.
Spokespeople for Blumenauer, Pressley, and Buchanan’s offices could not provide comments by press time.
About 837,000 Americans biked to work in 2017, according to the Census Bureau, an increase of more than 40 percent since 2000. The goal of the bill, according to its sponsors, is to push that number up, despite a slight drop in bike commuting nationwide since 2014.
Blumenauer, a longtime champion for cycling initiatives, said the federal government should take an active role in incentivizing people to choose bikes over cars.
“Communities of all sizes are demanding better transportation options to get to work, and it is past time that the federal government provides the flexibility and incentives needed to encourage the bike community,” he said in a statement. “We must offer more transportation choices that are better for the environment, cheaper for families, and incentivize burning calories, not carbon.”
The bill will now go to a House committee for a vote.
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