Despite a severe recession forcing companies to cut costs and wages, most employers are maintaining -- and in some cases increasing -- tax-free commuter benefits as part of their compensation packages, according to a TransitCenter study, entitled 2009 Commuter Impact Survey.
Eight months after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which increased the amount of tax-free income employees could use to pay for their mass transit fares from $120/month to $230/month, TransitCenter found that over one-third (35 percent) of companies surveyed offer a tax-free commuter benefit.
According to TransitCenter's 2009 Commuter Impact Survey, tax-free commuter benefits have joined health, retirement and disability at the top of benefit lists offered by companies. Companies listed "cost savings for employees" (62 percent) and "enhance overall benefits offering" (47 percent) as the top reasons for offering the benefit. And, 91 percent say that their employees are still concerned about the price of gas, despite a fall off from last summer's record prices.
Additional findings of the study include:
- Flextime (33 percent), Telecommuting (30 percent) and Transit (30 percent) are the top commute-related benefits offered by the surveyed companies.
- Seventy-two percent of respondents see tax-free commuter benefits as a way to help reduce their company's carbon footprint.
- As a result of the increase in the transit benefit cap, 27 percent of companies have seen increased enrollments, 39 percent have seen an increase in their employees' pretax deductions, and seven percent of companies have increased the subsidized amount offered to employees.