Expanding the Bike Commuter Benefit is Not a Bike Sharing Subsidy

Sen. Paul Sshumer (D-NY) was able to get an amendment added a package of tax breaks passed this week by the Senate Finance Committee that will allow people who use bike sharing to pay for it with the existing bike commuter benefit. The text of the amendment isn’t available yet, but you can find a description of it at this link (click on Amendments to the EXPIRE Act).

This amendment would modify the qualified transportation benefit in Section 132(f) of the Internal Revenue Code to add expenses associated with the use of a bike sharing program to the list of qualifying expenses.

BTW, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner co-sponosored it.

A little history. The bike commuter benefit was the brainchild of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and was included in tax extenders legislation in 2008. Those extenders were passed into law in 2008 as part of the bailout bill (oddly enough, Blumenauer voted against the bill, because it was not paid for, and Republicans voted for it even thought it wasn’t. Such is politics.) Anyway, this was before bikesharing was really a big deal – CaBi had launched only a few days beforehand – and so the bill didn’t mention it. Now that bikesharing is, people who commuted by bikeshare wanted to use their bike commuter benefit to pay for their membership and fees. Oddly, the IRS ruled that they couldn’t.