BikePortland

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


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The bill would re-instate a tax benefit for biking to work that was repealed in 2017 as part of the Republican-led Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.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The recent tax bill pushed through by President Donald Trump repealed the meager, $20 per month bike commuter benefit through 2025.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.

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Below is the text of the bill:

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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

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