TAX BREAKS AVAILABLE TO COMMUTERS

April 15, 2004
4/15/04

With taxes on the minds of most Americans today, the Chicago Transit Authority took the opportunity to encourage area employers to sign up for the RTA/CTA tax saving Transit Benefit program. CTA, RTA and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce officials gathered to promote the program, which can reduce taxes for both employees and employers.

The Transit Benefit program provides a tax benefit to both employers and employees by enabling them to purchase fares on CTA, Metra and Pace with pre-tax earnings. Participants can pay for their commuting costs through monthly payroll deductions of up to $100. Depending on the amount they deduct, employees can reduce their taxes by $200 to $465 annually. Employers benefit by getting an annual payroll tax savings of approximately 10 percent of what their employees set aside due to decreased payroll costs.

?This program is a must for anyone who wants to lower their taxes. By enrolling in this program, commuters can save money," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "Reducing transit expenses through tax savings is a great benefit for people who take public transportation regularly and is a great way to attract new customers to transit."

Kruesi said joining the program just became easier. For the convenience of program participants, the CTA's new Chicago Card PlusTM became available for use in the Transit Benefit Program April 1. This new option is popular with employers because it reduces their administrative duties. With the Chicago Card Plus, program participants can quickly and easily post employees? pre-tax payroll deductions to an online account. Without the Chicago Card Plus, employers must distribute fare media to their employees each month.

?Using Chicago Card Plus will result in easier payments, faster boarding and better service for CTA customers," said CTA Chairman Carole Brown. "I encourage all customers to try out this new and improved technology."

To date, 358 local employers who participate in the Transit Benefit program have signed up for the Chicago Card Plus option. They represent more than 5,000 customers who have switched to Chicago Card Plus. By May, 14 percent of all participating Transit Benefit program participants will be enjoying the benefits of Chicago Card Plus.

?The Transit Benefit program is a boon for business large and small in Chicago," said Jerry Roper, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President. ?Not only do companies who participate realize tax savings, they also help to promote use of public transit which has a huge impact on the overall business climate of the Chicagoland region by reducing congestion and improving business productivity."

Employees currently enrolled in the Transit Benefit program who want to switch to Chicago Card Plus must sign up through their employers.

Through Transit Benefit, customers can purchase the CTA's unlimited ride 30-Day Pass for $75; and $30, $35, $50 and $60 passes. Reduced fare and paratransit passes also are available through Transit Benefit. RTA transit checks, which can be used to purchase CTA, Metra or Pace fares, can be purchased for any amount between $10 and $100.

The Chicago Card Plus option will allow Transit Benefit customers to choose between Pay-Per-Use or a 30-Day Pass and automatically have value added to their accounts with their pre-tax dollars. The Chicago Card Plus also features a $1 bonus for every $10 of added value, fare balance protection and the convenience of touch-and-go boarding.

The Chicago Card Plus can be used to pay a full fare or transfer at any CTA rail station or on any CTA or Pace bus, with the exception of Pace route #835.

The cost to purchase a Chicago Card Plus is $5. This fee is non-refundable and is not available for transportation.

In addition to saving money for participants, the Transit Benefit program positively impacts the environment by encouraging the use of public transportation. Other benefits of the program include reduced commuting and parking costs for employees.

Among the participating employers are the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, CNA Insurance, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Chicago Board of Education, Fannie Mae, Unicare and Loyola University.

In 1998, 856 companies first offered the RTA Transit Check program to approximately 8,000 employees. Since the RTA and CTA partnered to create the Transit Benefit program in 1999, the number of companies has grown to 2,800 employers representing 65,000 employees ? a 227 percent increase in employers and a 713 percent increase in employees.

For more information on the Transit Benefit program call 312-664-7200, extension 3069 or visit www.transitchicago.com.

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