King County Vanshare

Commuter Tax Subsidies and Vanpools

New commuter benefits programs can generate major tax savings for both individuals and businesses.

In 2015, the federal government updated its tax codes, increasing the amount of monthly pre-tax income that can be put toward qualified commuting expenses. Under the new laws, commuters can use up to $255 per month in pre-tax income to cover parking costs, use of public transit, and vanpool fares.

This commuter benefits tax program takes advantage of a proven transportation demand management strategy: people are more likely to adopt positive behavior changes if they are financially rewarded for doing so. Under the new tax laws, commuters are eligible for reductions of as much as $3,060 in taxable income. Businesses also reduce their payroll tax liabilities by reducing the total amount of taxable income paid out each month. This adds up to some major savings, especially for those who max out their eligibility year in and year out.

Even better, there’s another angle for businesses to consider. Companies that run vanpools as part of their enterprise rideshare programs have the option of shouldering the cost of the service themselves, which creates some added flexibility.

Vanpool enterprise rideshare solutions qualify for commuter tax benefits programs, and can be applied in multiple ways.

The general gist of this alternate strategy is fairly simple: instead of deducting vanpool fees from employees’ pre-tax income, companies can instead pay for the vanpools themselves, then make the corresponding adjustments to the base pay of employees that use the service.

While it might seem counterintuitive to spin a reduction in an employee’s base pay rate as a financial incentive, this option actually offers some advantages over the standard way of doing things. Thus far, most companies have had employees pay out-of-pocket for access to enterprise rideshare services, then claim the commuter benefits on their tax returns.

By contrast, the base pay reduction method eliminates the need for employees to track their vanpool expenditures and complicate their tax returns, making it a simpler and more accessible option. Regardless of which method you use, the bottom-line benefits are the same, for both employees and businesses.

The RideAmigos software platform is a valuable addition to any enterprise rideshare program. To learn more about how it can benefit your business, get started with RideAmigos today.

(Photo Credit: Oran Viriyincy)

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