Not suggesting you flaunt tax law or anything, but if there’s a bit of singletrack between you and your place of work, maybe a dusty and gravel-covered fire road, could be time soon to get a little dirty riding to the office (just assuming here that if you live within road bike distance of work, you probably already commute by bike).
Congressional reps Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Vern Buchanan of Florida recently introduced the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2019 which, thoughtfully, would allow a tax credit for biking to work.
The law would provide for a $53 per month tax deduction for bike commuters. It’s pegged to be 20 percent of what drivers or public transit users can deduct for a commuting expense (right now, that’s $265/month). If the deduction for, say, public transit users increases, so will yours, as a person ripping through mud on a gravel grinder on the way home from the office. Why only 20 percent of public transit users or drivers? In theory, because bike maintenance is an overall cheaper expense. Maybe.
This isn’t a new idea, of course. Perhaps you took advantage of a similar deduction introduced by Congress in 2009, which allowed a modest $20 monthly deduction. The White House’s new tax plan in 2017 nipped that deduction from the tax code. The Bicycle Commuter Act reinstates the program at nearly three times the benefit.
“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.
Bike commuting has seen a slight drop in numbers in the past 5 years, but a tax benefit could go a little ways toward reversing that trend. $50 per month could be enough to help buy better commuter clothes, maybe pay for a bike club membership, certainly buys post-ride coffees before, or maybe post-beer sessions on the way home. I’d certainly consider taking the long way home, hitting some trails in the Marin Headlands as part of my San Francisco commute, if I, you know, had one.
Actually, I see people commuting on some of my favorite trails all the time. Granted, there are probably few places were a major urban hub is so close to pristine mountain bike trails, but of the thousands of cyclists who live in Marin County but work in downtown San Francisco, plenty ride to work along winding fireroads that twist their way from the green hills north of the city to the Golden Gate Bridge, then return home the same way. Probably plenty more who’ve considered doing that, for whom a small tax break could be just the push they need to get out of the car and onto a bike.
Now that the bill, which you can read here, has been introduced, it goes to committee for a vote. We’ll keep you posted.
Top photo: Phil Gradwell