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Commuter Benefits Overview
Important Update on Pre-Tax Commuter Benefits:
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 expired on December 31st, changing the monthly pre-tax spending limit for transit and vanpools from $245 to $130 per month. Please talk to your payroll staff or benefits vendor for instructions on how to adjust employee pre-tax deductions accordingly.
Congress may act to reinstate parity between pre-tax transit and parking benefits in 2014. To stay updated:
If you would like to inform your Congress member of your support for permanent parity, please go to http://www.commuterbenefitsworkforus.com/.
Commuter Benefits are federally approved, employer-administered incentives offered as a pre-tax deduction or subsidy program to reduce employee commute costs for biking, taking transit, ridesharing and parking. The benefits decrease payroll taxes and employee commute costs.
Commuter Benefits Ordinance
As one step towards meeting the City’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, reducing the number of commuters driving alone to San Francisco is imperative. However, without the support of their employer, choosing sustainable modes may be too expensive or cumbersome for some commuters. The Commuter Benefits Ordinance encourages commuters to walk, bike, take transit and rideshare by requiring employers to offer commuter benefits to eligible employees.
The following businesses are subject to the Ordinance:
Businesses with a location in San Francisco (including non-profit organizations.
Businesses with 20 or more employees nationwide
Businesses with a San Francisco business registration certificate (see below for more information)
Though not subject to the requirements of the Ordinance, employers with fewer than 20 employees are encouraged to offer a commuter benefits program.
How to Comply
Adopted in 2009, the Ordinance affects businesses with 20 or more employees nationwide that have San Francisco-based employees, and requires them to offer one of the following employee benefits:
Pre-Tax Transportation Benefits – A monthly pre-tax deduction, up to $130/month, to pay for transit or vanpool expenses (as of January 1, 2014).
Employer-Paid Transportation Benefits – A monthly subsidy for transportation expenses equivalent to the price of the San Francisco Muni Fast Pass (including BART travel), currently $76/month.
Employer-Provided Transportation – A company-funded bus or van service between employee homes
Businesses with fewer than 20 employees nationwide
Businesses that do not operate in San Francisco
Contractors with headquarters located outside of San Francisco if A) project assignments in San Francisco are less than 6 months, or B) employees are required to drive specialty vehicles to project sites. This includes construction workers driving heavy equipment vehicles, caterers driving refrigerated vehicles or specialty vans or delivery companies.
Employers with employees that solely telecommute
Compliance Reporting Form
Annual compliance reporting forms are due by April 30 every year. This form is an easy and short online form, meant to relay the programmatic offerings at each company for verification of compliance.
To complete the compliance reporting form, the employer will need the following:
The 6-digit San Francisco Business Registration Number. If you don’t know your 6-digit Business Registration Certificate number, please contact 311 or search the DATASF database. Non-profit organizations that do not have a business registration number may contact the CommuteSmart team for additional information at firstname.lastname@example.org
General information about the company’s commuter benefits program
Annual compliance reporting forms are due by April 30 every year. Employers should expect to receive their Certificate of Compliance approximately one month after this deadline. Businesses that are not in compliance with the Commuter Benefits Ordinance will have 90 days to implement a benefits program, and will be notified by the CommuteSmart team.
Training and Assistance
For help setting up a commuter benefits program, please download a copy of our Commuter Benefits Employer Guide, or contact the CommuteSmart team at email@example.com. CommuteSmart is also available for free one-on-one consultations to help employers set up commuter benefits programs.
The priority of the Department of Environment is education; we will work with employers to help determine the best commuter program for your company and assist in implementation. As such, enforcement emphasizes outreach and education resulting in implementation of the commuter benefits programs.
The Ordinance directs the Department of Environment to take the following steps if necessary:
Warning – A written notice of violation
Fines – Fines will be levied 90 days after the initial written notice. Employers will be subject to a fine of $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second violation and $500 for the third violation, up to a maximum of $800
For additional information about enforcement of the Commuter Benefits Ordinance, please refer to the Rules and Regulations.
For more information, contact:
San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment)
City & County of San Francisco
Phone: (415) 355-3727
San Francisco is habitat for 800,000 people – meeting needs for space to work, play, and learn; for food, water, and air; for community with local flora and fauna. SF Environment provides support for urban agriculture and forestry and green buildings, helping residents and businesses harness environmental opportunities.