Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Oregon Congressman Blumenauer seeks to re-instate bike commuter tax break

Posted by on March 5th, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Which one should we incentivize?
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Hoping to incentivize cycling in America, Oregon Congressman (and former Portland City Commissioner) Earl Blumenauer has introduced the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2019.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer at the 2017 National Bike Summit.

The bill would re-instate a tax benefit for biking to work that was repealed in 2017 as part of the Republican-led Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Rep. Blumenauer, who has pushed for a version of this bill since at least 2006 and got it passed in 2008 as part of former President Barack Obama’s financial bailout bill, said in a statement released by his office today that, “The bicycle is the most efficient form of urban transportation ever devised,” and that despite the proliferation of bike share and cycling in general throughout the country, there remains no tax benefit for riding to work.

The IRS currently offers a “qualified transportation fringe benefit” of up to $265 per month for driving a car, parking a car, and taking transit. Shockingly, the most efficient and healthiest form of transportation — cycling — is ineligible.

The recent tax bill pushed through by President Donald Trump repealed the meager, $20 per month bike commuter benefit through 2025.

Now Rep. Blumenauer along with fellow representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) want to reinstate, modify, and expand the bike commute benefit.

The bill seeks to: Make the benefit a pre-tax benefit instead of a reimbursement; Allow employees to receive a bicycle benefit of up to 20% of the parking benefit (currently equals $53/month for bicycling, indexed to inflation); Allow the bicycle benefit to be used in concert with the transit and parking benefits (previous incarnation required people to choose one or the other); Adds bikeshare as eligible for the benefit and clarifies that electric bikes are eligible.

Advertisement

Below is the text of the bill:

BLUMEN_002_xml

Blumenauer’s bill would help people who use a range of modes to get to work, such as someone who usually bikes, but opts for transit when it rains or who use bikeshare to get to a bus stop. “Present-law doesn’t provide a benefit for all of these scenarios, but it should,” reads a statement about the bill. “The Bicycle Commuter Act provides the flexibility that people need.”

The bill has been endorsed by The League of American Bicyclists, the New York City Department of Transportation, People for Bikes, and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Portland Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said she “strongly supports” the Bicycle Commuter Act. “Biking is an undeniably positive form of transportation: it promotes physical, emotional, societal, and environmental health. By providing a financial incentive for biking to work we will not only encourage a better lifestyle, we will also reduce carbon emissions and further our collective climate goals.”

The bill comes out just days before cycling and transportation advocates will come together in Washington D.C. for the National Bike Summit.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

43
Leave a Reply

avatar
10 Comment threads
33 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
24 Comment authors
Mike9wattsHello, KittyPSGlenn the 2nd Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Thumbs up, but if we were really serious about saving the earth, our children and ourselves we would make full time bicycle commuters ( would have to be car-less also) exempt from Federal Income Tax. Would require income limits and strict tests for validity. Seems crazy right? but if we don’t do something as significant as this to change our ways, what is the point of tax revenues? To paraphrase a bumper sticker I used to have, ” there is no IRS on a dead planet.”

igor
Guest
igor

Why is a bike only worth 2/10ths of a car?

Mike
Guest
Mike

Interesting that a Florida representative is backing this as FL is one of the deadliest states to ride in.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I don’t think the income tax should have anything to say about how a person commutes. But I also think if it is going to give a deduction for driving, it really has to do so for every mode. And they what you end up with is a deduction for commuters in general. Which really doesn’t make any policy sense.

So I might argue this bill solves the right problem (tax deduction for driving) in the wrong way.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Why only $53 and not $265?

Carl
Guest
Carl

Which Portland-area employers offered the Bike Commuter Benefit* before its suspension?

If I recall, it was so complicated (and costly) to offer that many of even the bikiest Portland businesses and organizations didn’t offer it.

*the federal pre-tax benefit that got approved in ’08

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

The Netherlands outright pays people to commute by bike. About 22 cents/kilometer deposited directly into their bank account. No silly tax cut paperwork necessary.

nate
Guest
nate

While I’m all for tax breaks that incentivize transit, biking, and other active transportation (is there some reason folks who could walk should feel financial pressure to bike instead?), I think the first step is to stop incentivizing driving. Why not just pass a law that says if a business offers a parking subsidy to even a single employee, it must offer the full amount to all employees equally? The employees can use that money for parking, transit, biking, or buying a coffee on their walk to work.

I would imagine that many businesses would find the cost prohibitive and no longer subsidize parking at all (win) or only subsidize a portion, say the first $100/month, which would cover a transit pass or a nice bike, but only some of the cost of parking (also, win).

Asher Atkinson
Guest
Asher Atkinson

This is a step in the wrong direction. Simply repeal any ‘qualified transportation fringe benefit’. All this meager and largely symbolic bike ‘benefit’ will achieve is allowing those who support parking subsidies to use a ‘fairness’ argument. The repeal of the bike benefit in 2017 gave those who want to see a meaningful way to dissuade commuting by car the upper hand, yet now this opportunity is being squandered by politicians more interested in signaling virtue than achieving results.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I think that all car subsidies should be repealed. The State government must do the same too. Too many state government offices provide cheap to free parking to their employees. So the State government (including Dems) can grandstand all they want about combatting climate change. But until they make it more expensive to drive, nothing will change. I have little faith in the federal government right now.