US Commuters lose transit, parking, biking benefits in tax bill
FACTBOX-Attacks against New York City in recent years
An explosion on Monday shook the area near New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, one of the city's busiest commuter hubs, and authorities said a suspect, identified as Akayed Ullah, and three other people were injured. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the explosion "an attempted terrorist attack." The following are some of the other attacks carried out in New York in recent years:Oct. 31, 2017 - Sayfullo Saipov drove a truck down a lower Manhattan bike lane, killing eight people, including five Argentinians who were in the city to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation.
WASHINGTON — Count commuters among the losers in the Republican tax bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on next week.
The final bill agreed to by Republican negotiators and released late Friday eliminates the tax incentive for private employers that subsidize their employees' transit, parking and bicycle commuting expenses.
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A suspect was in custody after a blast forced evacuations of the Port Authority and the Port Authority and Times Square subway stations.A peaceful beginning to the workweek was shattered Monday after an explosion rattled through one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City, causing the authorities to evacuate hundreds of commuters and throwing the morning into chaos.
Currently, companies can provide parking or transit passes worth up to $255 a month to employees as a benefit to help pay for their commuting expenses, and then deduct the costs from their corporate taxes. That amount was set to increase to $260 a month on Jan. 1.
The reasoning behind the elimination of the deduction is that since the tax bill substantially lowers the corporate tax rate, smaller tax breaks that complicate the tax code are no longer necessary. Companies could still provide the parking and transit passes to employees, but they would no longer get the tax deduction. And employees who pay for their own transportation costs can still use pre-tax income.
The elimination of the subsidy has transit agencies worried that fewer commuters will opt for transit.
New York subway attack shows limits of counterterror strategy
Minutes after a man set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body in one of New York's busiest transit hubs, throwing the Monday morning commute into chaos for many, a suspect was in custody, trains were rerouted and throngs of police swarmed the streets. The massive response exposed the limits of the antiterrorism force the city has built since the deadly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It has learned to respond quickly and effectively to attacks but faces an almost impossible task in trying to thwart every threat, particularly the acts of "lone wolves" targeting public places and New York's vast transit system.
"It's clearly a negative for commuters who are spending a lot of money on public transportation," said Rob Healy, vice president for governmental affairs at the American Public Transportation Association. The employer subsidies are generally more lucrative for commuters than the ability to use pre-tax income for transportation costs, he said.
"The concern is that if employers can't write it off, they won't offer it. And if they don't offer it, it's a loss to the employees," Healy said. "It could ultimately hurt the ridership."
Businesses that provide their employees with $20 per month to cover the expense of commuting by bicycle would also no longer be able to write off the benefit under the tax bill. Without that incentive, the relatively few employers offering the benefit may discontinue it, said Ken McLeod, policy director for the League of American Bicyclists.
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Bicyclists can use the benefit to offset the cost of a new bicycle or pay for helmets, locks, lights or maintenance like new tires, McLeod said. The money doesn't count toward employee earnings, he said.
Getting rid of the bicycle benefit, which was adopted in 2009, would save the government a relatively low $5 million a year, McLeod said. By comparison, the parking benefit costs the government about $7.3 billion a year in foregone taxes, according to a report by TransitCenter, a transit advocacy group.
The House version of the tax bill retained the benefit, but the Senate version eliminated it even though more than 1,500 bicyclists contacted members of the Senate Finance Committee to try to persuade them to keep the write-off, he said.
"Growth in commuting by bicycle contributes to reducing congestion, promoting good health and supporting a low-cost mode of transportation for all Americans," 20 bicycle, community, and sports and outdoor industry groups said in a letter to the committee's chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and senior Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
What bothers bicyclists the most, McLeod said, isn't so much the money, but "just that it feels like the federal government doesn't support biking.
"I don't know if that is something the legislators meant to express," he said, "but that's something we're definitely hearing."
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A look at some winners and losers under the GOP tax plan .
<p>Count President Donald Trump among the personal winners in the $1.5 trillion tax package that Republicans in the House and Senate passed Wednesday. It's not only a political score for Trump but likely a windfall for his real estate empire, too.</p>Oil drillers would also benefit. So would multimillionaire and billionaire owners of sports teams. Companies would enjoy a bounty from permanently lower tax rates. Lawyers and accountants will profit from the advice suddenly needed to guide clients through the tax plan.
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