5

I spent $150/month this year on qualifying commuter expenses (monthly train pass), but I wasn't aware of the commuter tax benefit that was available via the employer. In fact no one at our company knew of it (we're only 10 people).

Is there any way to claim these as pre-tax expenses on my 2016 taxes when it was not purchased through an employer program?

7

Unfortunately, no. Transportation expenses between your home and your primary employment location are not normally deductible.

An employer, however, is allowed to offer its employees transit passes; this fringe benefit is tax deductible for the employer and is not considered income for the employee, up to a monthly limit of $255 (for 2016). The employer could make you pay for the passes by reducing your paycheck by the amount of the pass; in this case, you would essentially be buying the passes with tax-free money.

It's probably too late for this year, but next year you should see if your employer will do this for you.

  • Assuming the W2s haven't been printed yet, couldn't the company allow employees to submit their transit receipts for the year and convert that amount of wages into reimburseable? Five days might be enough time for a small company to do it, and collectively it could save their employees thousands of dollars. – TTT Dec 26 '16 at 20:58
  • 1
    Interesting, in Finland you only pay taxes for "profit" and transportation to work is one of the few things "normal people" can deduct. Rates go according to the expense of public transport if it is viable and driving your own car if it isn't. And the employer does not need to do anything, employees communicate directly with tax authorities. – NikoNyrh Dec 26 '16 at 21:11

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