Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Biking Pork

I read here about a piece of pork that got into this $700b bailout bill. The pork is a bill which offers corporations a $20/commuter/month tax credit per cycling employee. While I agree in principle with the result, I have to say I'm not impressed that a senator switched his support of the bailout because of this earmark. Some might call this compromise in action, but I tend to see it as a selfish hold-out for a pet interest. Can I get an Amen, anyone?
Here's the relevant snippet of H.R. 1424  (in full here):

"To provide authority for the Federal Government to purchase and insure certain types of troubled assets for the purposes of providing stability to and preventing disruption in the economy... (Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate)"


(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.'.
(b) Limitation on Exclusion- Paragraph (2) of section 132(f) is amended by striking `and' at the end of subparagraph (A), by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting `, and', and by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
`(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.'.
(c) Definitions- Paragraph (5) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term `qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement' means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.
`(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term `applicable annual limitation' means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.
`(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term `qualified bicycle commuting month' means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee--
`(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee's residence and place of employment, and
`(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).'.
(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting `(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)' after `qualified transportation fringe'.
(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.

Try as I might, I could not locate the section 132(f) referred to in this final copy. I suppose that's why they hire full time staff, to sort through the tangled wording of such bills. Anyway, shouldn't a bill to provide a tax incentive for bicycle commuting be voted on as a bill to promote bicycle commuting? Here's a short list of some of the other gems tucked away into this one:
  • renewable energy credits
  • tax credit for fuels used by the steel industry
  • clean coal technology investment credit
  • CO2 sequestration tax credit
  • biofuels tax credits
  • plug-in electric vehicle credit
  • tax deduction for energy efficient buildings
  • tax deductions for domestic hydrocarbon production
  • railroad track maintenance
  • indian employment tax credit
  • duty suspension for wool products and wool research fund
  • Sec 401 "permanent authority for undercover operations" !!!
  • Sec 503 "exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children"
These are but a few of the many many many tag-ons to this bill. I think we're getting a heck of a lot more than we've bargained for on this one...

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