Today, Sen. Carper (D-Del.) announced he has cosponsored the Commuter Benefits Equity Act of 2013, authored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). This legislation would establish permanent tax benefits for transit riders on par with the benefits offered to automobile drivers.
Currently, the tax benefit for drivers is a permanent part of the tax code, valued at up to $245 monthly for parking and adjusted for inflation. The benefit for transit riders, however, must be renewed annually and is not adjusted for inflation. During the height of the economic crisis in 2009, the benefit for transit riders was temporarily increased to the same rate that drivers receive through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Parity between transit riders' and drivers' benefits was then extended late last year.
However, if action is not taken this year, benefits for transit riders will fall back to $125 per month after December 31. This new legislation will establish permanent parity between the benefits for transit riders and the benefits for drivers.
"This is an issue of fundamental fairness," said Sen. Carper. "We should be providing the same benefits for all commuters, no matter how they choose to get to work. Moreover, we certainly shouldn't be creating a disincentive for folks to take public transit, particularly for some of our neediest citizens who depend heavily on this cost-effective means of transportation. Many Americans depend on public transit for travel to work, and this legislation ensures that tax benefits for transit riders will remain on par with the benefits for drivers."
In 2010, more than a quarter of the people using transit benefits at that time spent more than $120 per month, and approximately 40 percent of employers and employees in major cities used the transit benefit. Decreasing the cap for transit benefits would burden the people who most depend on that means of travel.