General Question

taxlover's avatar

Tax benefits for bicycle commuters?

Asked by taxlover (21points) December 24th, 2007

There a number of bills and laws in the U.S. and the world designed to provide tax benefits to bicycle commuters. I am writing a paper on the subject. My question to you is – how is this enforced? It seems like it may be just too easy to cheat the system. Any comment on the issue would be interesting – especially from belgians.

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5 Answers

jdvanderk's avatar

Coming from an American individual’s perspective…

The point of these bills is not to increase the amount of bicycle riders, its to decrease the amount of dangerous carbon dioxide spewing gas burning cars on the road. So it seems like instead of encouraging bike riding (which doesn’t seem too clear in its application, would there be tax subsidies for the price of bikes, tax breaks for licensed bike owners, or what?), car driving should be discouraged.

In order to get people to switch from cars to bikes, it seems like there could be some better policy choices made than a tax benefit scheme for bike commuters. For instance:

1. Use public money to build more bicycle lanes/paths on or near roads, and also to build more bicycle racks/other places to “park” your bike.

2. If you want to use a tax, give businesses a tax break for encouraging employees to bike to work (although this would be hard to prove as well, it would be much easier to give businesses a tax break for paying for bicycle racks and the like)

3. Give people money for trading in their car for a bike (this could be government or privately run, although the government probably would rather just pay someone else to do it).

Of course, this would only work well in a city…a lot of the united states will never be able to give up cars, theres so much space and everything is so spread out, it couldnt work otherwise. This is true in some way for everywhere, there is no getting around the need to use vehicles larger than a bicycle which require more than human motive power to operate. So really, encouraging bicycle riding would have to be part of a larger scheme of incentivizing alternative fuels, electric cars (along with encouraging lower carbon emitting ways of generating power), mass transit, and general efficiency in the use of fuel/power.

jdvanderk's avatar

just ran across this, thought it might interest you

taxlover's avatar

Thank you. All this is very interesting. I tend to agree with most of the points you made above, namely, it is obvious that it is vital to create an incentive package. However, since I have limited space in my paper, I should only focus on one such incentive. The point of my question was that it is hard for me to think of ways in which the tax authorities could check if one actually cycles to work daily. The same cannot be said about the credits which could be given to employers – it is very easy to verify whether a shower was built or not. The reason I hoped belgians might reply is that there is a credit for commuters – and I was curious to see how it was enforced. Mandatory registration, even with all the problems it may create, could be an interesting thing to think about to solve this.

Thanks again.

emilyrose's avatar

On the article: I think bicyclists should be PAID instead of having to pay if they don’t actually drive. We bikers help reduce global warming and otherwise make the world a happy place.

Zaku's avatar

In Seattle, the city transit department has (had?) a program rewarding people for not driving every day. People filled out logs of their non-driving trips, whether walking, biking, or taking the bus, and they were rewarded with free bus tickets. There was no verification of people’s logs, but bus tickets aren’t coveted by people who only ever drive.

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