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Commuter benefits programs may soon be offered to D.C. employees

Commuting to work can be a headache for some, what with Washington, D.C.s congested streets and highways. Moreover, those who rely on their automobiles to get them to work may find that parking places are at a premium. The costs of parking, gas and wear-and-tear on one's automobile can range from merely annoying to prohibitively expensive. However, a new law will soon be taking effect that could help area employees out with such costs.

The deadline for compliance with a new Washington law that affects employers in the district is looming. Per the new law, if a company in Washington employs 20 or more individuals, that company must offer employees a commuter benefit program by January 1. This benefit will be tax-free.

According to district transportation officials, it is hoped that such initiatives will increase the public's use of area transportation systems, including buses and railcars. The district is interested in encouraging the use of public transportation in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the roadways, which could in turn be good for the environment and save on the wear-and-tear on the areas streets and highways.

Currently some employers already provide workers with the opportunity to take part of a commuter benefit program in which the worker can see a pre-tax deduction of $130 monthly from their pay to cover the costs of transit. This is allowed by the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, employees who participate in this particular program and commute to work via automobile may also have the opportunity to receive a $250 monthly pre-tax deduction for parking costs.

As an alternative to this payroll deduction, employers can directly offer workers the opportunity to be directly compensated for transit costs or the employer can provide workers with a method of transportation such as carpooling services.

Employees should not hesitate to take advantage of such programs. Ultimately, it is up to employers to provide employees with all benefits they are entitled to. The denial of benefits is a serious issue. If an employer fails to provide an employee with all the benefits he or she is entitled to by law, the employee who has been wrongfully denied benefits may choose to pursue legal action against the employer.

Source: Washington Post, "More Washington workers will get commuter benefits," Luz Lazo, Nov. 4, 2015

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