Saving $ Without Giving Up Your Latte

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July 10, 2012 by girlsgonewealthy

Let’s face it: work isn’t always fun, the commute to work can be even less enjoyable, and paying for your transportation to get to the office is even more painful! At least the government understands this and gives us a slight break. Some companies offer something called a TRANSPORTATION (COMMUTER) SAVINGS ACCOUNT (write this down so you can ask someone in your HR department). This allows you to use PRE-TAX income for certain transportation costs related to work. You may receive benefits for the following:

  1. A ride in a commuter highway vehicle between the employee’s home and work place (this is a highway vehicle that seats at least 6 adults, excluding the driver. Additionally, you must reasonably expect that at least 80% of the vehicle mileage will be for transporting employees between their home and work place with employees occupying at least ½ of the vehicles seats, excluding the driver)
  2. A transit pass (on either mass transit- bus, rail, or ferry- or in a vehicle that seats at least six adults, excluding the driver, operated by a person in the business of transporting persons for pay or hire)
  3. Qualified parking
  4. Qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement

 OK, so how much can I really save?

You can use up to $125 per month (PRE-TAX dollars) toward your commuter account for mass-transit, up to $125 per month for van pool expenses, up to $240 per month for parking at or near an employer’s worksite or at a facility from which you commute via transit (vanpool, carpool), or up to $20 per qualified bicycle commuting month (as of January 2012).

Thus, you could receive the transit AND parking benefits (that’s $240 + $125 = $365 in PRE-TAX dollars per month)!!

How do I know if my company offers commuter benefits?

Speak with your human resources department to see if your company offers this. Many big companies do offer TSAs (transportation savings accounts), and you can choose what type of benefits you’d like to receive each month (it could be a bus voucher, a monthly subway card, or something of the like that comes in the mail).

How do I sign up?

If your company does offer TSAs, then you can usually sign up through your company’s employee benefits site (the same place where you can view your insurance and 401(k) plan). Under my employee benefits page, I can look under Savings Accounts, and view my TSA options (this is where it lets me choose if I’d like a check voucher that I can take into Walgreens for my bus card, or a subway monthly pass, or something else). There are typically many options based on your location. Each company is different though, so you may want to seek out an HR representative for assistance. Once it is setup though, you can sign up for recurring benefits (so you don’t have to go through the process each month)! Trust me, it’s worth a few minutes of your time!

Interested in reading more?

http://www.irs.gov/publications/p15b/ar02.html#en_US_2012_publink1000193740

Now you don’t need to feel guilty stopping at your favorite coffee shop between the bus stop and your office!

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