New survey shows how employers are helping employees cope with higher commuter costs

We’re big on commuter transit benefits here. Not only for cilents, but for our own employees who take public transportation. It’s good for employees, it’s good for employers, and it’s good for the environment.

It’s something I’ve blogged about before, What’s Old is New Again: Commuter Benefits Under Section 132 and The Next Generation of Tax Favored Commuter Benefits: Bicycle Commuting.

Under Section 132 of the Internal Revenue Code, employers can provide a program that allows employees to pay for commuter expenses, i.e., public transportation, parking, and now bicycle commuting on a tax-favored basis. Employers get a tax break since Social Security taxes are not imposed on the benefit – not available with 401(k) plans.

It’s a benefit that continues to grow in popularity because of the economy and global warming. TransitCenter, a company specializing in commuter benefit programs, just released their 2008 Commuter Impact Survey that provides a number of key insights and implications regarding the impact of commuting on employers, employees, and strategies used to address these impacts. Here are the implications they found as a result of their survey:

The Survey indicates that employers are profoundly concerned about the impact that high fuel and commuting costs are having on their employees. Importantly, most employers see a need to help find viable solutions to soften this impact. Yet, while employers see raising salaries as a means of providing relief, they also cite concerns that they may not have the resources to do so in today’s economic climate.

Survey findings also show that commuter benefit programs, including flextime, telecommuting and tax-free commuter benefits, continue to be a viable solution for employers to help employees cope with high commuting expenses. In particular offering a tax-free commuter benefits program is viewed as having three key impacts: a highly relevant and cost-effective enhancement to a company’s overall benefits package; an effective way to attract and retain employees; and an easy solution to help reduce a company’s carbon footprint.

Factors that may prompt more companies to offer commuter benefits — and more employees to use them — include tax credits and increases to the IRS cap on monthly pretax salary deductions for commuter benefits.

Here is a link to the full survey.

Hat tip to Kris Dunn and his HR Capitalist blog.