Clipping the string

Have you ever wondered why many small business owners are conservatives? Try paying your own taxes and get back to me if you’re not sure. Paying your own taxes is about as much fun as taking a quiz on the EULA you agreed to but didn’t read.

It’s a royal pain in the ass. 

For the past five years, I have had subsidized access to Washington D.C.’s public transportation system. Now, I pay for it entirely on my own, which is considerably less fun and even less fun for my wallet.

If you live in D.C. or a city with a train system or get free parking at work that would ordinarily cost you money, odds are you are familiar with how this system works. (It was $125 for years until Congress considerably increased it in the Stimulus, and that higher rate expired, or was ‘cut’ as they put it.)

Which brings me to this thought: what if everyone had to physically pay for it?

The way Smart Benefits worked is that the employer (in my previous case, Congress) paid WMATA money and it went on my card. If I didn’t use my money to the full extent, it was forfeited — presumably to pay for workers suspended with pay that the union somehow kept from the firing block. Seriously though, I have no idea where the money goes, except not into my pocket, but I digress.

If tax reform comes to a point where deductions, credits and carve outs are on the board, I propose putting this one immediately on the chopping block.

It’s not that I hate public transportation entirely — just mostly — but I still take it 80% of the time to work. (I drove for a while, thus the reduced figure.)

Eliminating this deduction likely won’t change things for many people, their employers will likely still pay for their Metro in an effort to compete with other employers that also offer that benefit, it’s just that those will be taxable. Which isn’t the end of the world.

Why? Because people will feel a little more vested in the system if they have to do that. Just like people (including me) feel when paying their own income taxes as the self-employed.

If you feel you’re getting trips to and from work at no direct cost to you (even though there is a cost), you’re less likely to a.) complain b.) get involved when service gets really bad and c.) seek alternatives.

Paying for it yourself, in my opinion, seems like an easy way to change that.

I don’t think this suggestion will be popular, nor is it likely to happen. Transit unions and consumer groups will cry foul if anyone touches their magical exemption, which no doubt provides them with some sweet benefits and nearly guaranteed revenue.

To be fair, consumers benefit from it as well — but do they trade that benefit for quality service? I think so. 

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and vote in the poll!

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