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Bay Area Commuter Check Benefits To Be Slashed In 2014

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Passengers get off of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train as it arrives at the Daly City station. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Passengers get off of a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train as it arrives at the Daly City station. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

JEFFREY%20SCHAUB Jeffrey Schaub
Jeffrey Schaub is a Bay Area broadcast news veteran. From 1990 to 201...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A federal program that allows commuters in the Bay Area and across the country to use pretax dollars to pay for mass transit will change dramatically, beginning January 1.

In the Bay Area, it’s called Commuter Check. Through participating employers, employees can use pretax dollars from their paychecks to pay for transit and commuting.

This year, Bay Area commuters have been able to use up to $245 a month for transit costs. Starting in 2014, that number drops to $130 a month, after Congress decided not to extend the tax break.

Mark Wismer commutes on Bay Area Rapid Transit. “It’s a big difference, about cutting it in half. I was surprised when I got the email from Clipper that BART rates are also going up 5 percent,” he told KCBS. “It’s kind of like a double whammy.”

The money is either debited to a Clipper card or through a check in the mail.

Commuters whose monthly costs exceed $130 will also need to make some adjustments to their pre-tax elections in the coming months. Workers who need to buy monthly passes or other one-time purchases that are more than $130 may need to supplement their accounts by contributing post-tax dollars, pulled from their paychecks or checking accounts, into their flexible transit accounts.

Unlike those taking mass transit, people commuting by cars will actually be getting a bigger tax break starting next year, as the monthly parking benefit has been raised from $245 to $250.

Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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