The Commuting Conundrum

Which baseball player has the shortest commute? The catcher – because he only works from home! HA! 🙂

Like baseball catchers, some of us have our workplace at home. Others have to commute to work, which costs time and money. Is there a way that employers can help reduce this burden? You bet. They can sponsor a Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit plan. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

Commuting Once Again

During the pandemic, some employers found that remote employees worked out so well that they decided to continue the arrangement even after things improved. Others felt that the nature of their business required bringing everyone back to the office. Some decided to split the difference, with employees coming in a couple of days a week and working from home the rest of the time.

In a 2022 survey of 1,000 employers, found that 66 percent had already called employees back to the office. Nine in ten (90 percent) said they would require employees to come back into the office in 2023.

Reducing the Cost Burden

Whether you need to take public transit every day or pay for parking just a few times a week, you can benefit from an employer-sponsored transit/parking plan. “Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit” plans under IRS Code Section 132 have enabled employers to help make commuting a little easier on employees’ wallets.

These plans allow tax-advantaged commuter accounts that can be used to pay for covered expenses. These accounts are funded in one of three ways:

  • Employees can set aside pre-tax money from their paychecks, which saves taxes.
  • The employer can pay for eligible expenses, with the company getting the tax break.
  • Some combination of the two

Section 132 accounts are subject to a monthly limit on the amount that can be reimbursed. For 2023, that limit is $300 each for parking and transit. Parking and transit funds are not interchangeable.

Catch the Savings!

If you don’t have the option of flying to work like me, or working from home like the baseball catcher, then a Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit plan could be just what you need to help reduce your net commuting costs.

Talk to your HR about whether your company offers a Section 132 plan. If they do, find out how to sign up. If they don’t, ask them to think about it and send them this link to my informative video!

The Adventures of Captain Contributor is an award-winning employee education and engagement program. Since 2017, the Captain and his sidekick, Betty the Benefactress, have helped countless people better understand their employer-sponsored benefits, including FSAs, HRAs, DCAP, HSAs, COBRA, Commuter accounts, debit cards, mobile apps, and more! Follow Captain Contributor on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.