Senate Finance Committee votes to increase pre-tax benefits for public transportation commuters

The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance on Feb. 7 approved legislation that would reverse cuts to the monthly pre-tax transit benefits available to commuters who use public transportation and vanpools.

If approved by Congress, the bill will restore the monthly amount that can be set aside for public transportation expenses to $240 a month, rather than $125, saving commuters annual costs of up to an additional $550 this year, according to Save Flexible Spending Plans, a national grassroots advocacy campaign whose mission is to protect the accessibility and use of flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and other pre-tax benefits.

The new provision in the Highway Investment, Job Creation and Economic Growth Act of 2012 comes after a modification to the bill by Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont,), following an amendment offered by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“We applaud the leadership of the Senate Committee on Finance for moving to reverse what amounted to a tax increase on hard-working Americans who utilize commuter accounts and public transit to get to work,” Joe Jackson, chairman of Save Flexible Spending Plans and CEO of benefits administration service provider WageWorks Inc., in a written statement. “The sooner Congress acts to restore this important cost-saving vehicle, the better for commuters who are already paying more out of their pockets for costly commutes to work.”

While the amount that can be set aside to cover parking costs as part of a commute to work increased from $230 to $240 per month due to a cost of living adjustment, benefits for public transportation commuters in 2012 were reduced.

“For the millions of Americans who rely on public transportation and vanpools to make it to work, these benefits are an invaluable money saving tool,” said Jackson. “There’s no reason individuals driving to work should get preferential treatment over commuters using public transportation.”