IRS Commissioner pushes Congress for mass-transit decision

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

A push by the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner could coax Congress into making a decision to extend transit benefits for federal employees this year.

In a letter to leaders in the House and Senate tax committees, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen reminded Congress of the importance to make a firm decision on whether to extend a mass-transit subsidy before November.

“Making this decision in a timely manner will allow the IRS to implement Congress’s decision without unnecessary interruption and delays to the upcoming 2015 tax filing season, and it will provide certainty for millions of taxpayers who are affected by the expired provisions,” Koskinen wrote in a letter addressed to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R- Utah), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Copies of the letter were also sent to Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sander “Sandy” Levin (D-Mich.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Congress could pass a bill in 2015 that would retroactively extend the subsidy the previous year, but Koskinen warned that doing so could create operational and compliance hurdles that could result in millions of taxpayers needing to file amended tax returns, resulting in extremely delayed refunds.

The public transit tax subsidy for government workers was one of 55 expired tax breaks that Congress failed to renew in January, despite strong opposition from federal-employee unions. The transportation benefit had previously been reduced in 2011 from $245 to $130 per month before being restored in the “fiscal cliff” deals of January 2013.

In April, the Senate Finance Committee approved the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act, a bill which would extend a wide range of tax credits, including the subsidy for federal employees. The House has yet to approve the bill.

In a statement, Sen. Wyden urged Congress to act swiftly on extending the subsidy in order to avoid “serious disruptions” to the 2015 tax filing season.

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