SAO Federal and Trust Fund employees are invited to take advantage of the Smithsonian's pre-tax benefits for commuting expenses. The Smithsonian has enlisted WageWorks, Inc. (an online service company) to administer the commuter benefits program. This service program allows employees to purchase transit passes and parking passes for commuter lots through payroll deduction. The amount of the payroll deduction, subject to IRS limitations, will be exempt from federal, state and FICA tax.
In 2012 the IRS allows pre-tax deductions for parking up to $240 per month and mass transit pre-tax deductions of up to $125 per month.
There are many transit options available to subscribers. WageWorks' online catalog contains over 10,000 transit options nationwide, so you will most likely find the mode of transportation you use to come to work. Some options include commuter rail trains, commuter buses, T buses and trains, and some vanpools. At the present time Smithsonian's plan does not offer a bicycle commuter benefit. You can also elect to have your monthly expense for parking in commuter lots paid directly to your provider to save you time and money.
Commuter benefits are flexible. You may make a one-time subscription to receive the same benefits each month. Or, if your commute options change regularly. WageWorks allows you to elect different benefits each month. It is important to note that the amount requested should be for actual commuting expenses only.
With this plan you can:
- Save up to 50% of your commuter costs using pre-tax dollars
- Receive added discounts from some commuter providers
- Enroll and select benefits online
- Purchase transit and/or parking passes with a Commuter Card similar to a credit card
- Change your commuter options each month, or subscribe for the same benefits once and forget about it.
Funds are loaded on a WageWorks Commuter Card by the 20th of the month prior to the benefit month so that you can purchase a monthly transit pass prior to the start of the benefit month. Payroll deductions for the pass occur during the first two pay periods in the previous month. The deadline for ordering your transit and parking passes is the 10th of each month. It is important to note that IRS regulations do require you to purchase your transit benefits in advance of the month that you will use it. For example, in order to participate for March, you will need to do one of the following:
- Order transit pass by the 10th of January for most monthly passes. Please refer to the WageWorks website (below) for the appropriate deadline. Payroll deductions for the March benefit month will occur in February.
- If you are electing an out-of-pocket expense, or a transit or commuter lot parking pass that is not available through WageWorks, you will need to make your election by January 10th as well.
Important things to remember about your WageWorks Commuter Card:
- The funds you order for your card will be available on the 20th of the month prior to the benefit month (i.e., June 20th for a July benefit order). You cannot use this card for purchases before the 20th of the month.
- When using the Commuter Card at ticket vending machines, be sure to select "credit card" when entering the payment type. The WageWorks Commuter Card does NOT require a PIN.
- The Commuter Card can be used just like a credit card at locations that specifically sell transit passes -- transit agency ticket windows and ticket vending machines.
- The WageWorks Commuter Card is a "limited access" card; you can only use it to pay for eligible transit expenses at WageWorks-designated transit agencies. The WageWorks' website includes a list of agencies where the Commuter Card is accepted.
- Any unused funds will remain on the card for future transit purchases.
- You can check the available balance on your card anytime by logging into www.wageworks.com or by calling WageWorks at 1-877-924-3967.
New employees should wait until the first Monday following the pay period in which they were hired to sign up. It takes approximately two weeks for NFC to process new hire records and transmit the employee's initial eligibility records to WageWorks for upload into their database.
If you are a new user, here is how to sign up through WageWorks online:
- Visit https://www.wageworks.com/ and click on the "Register now" link.
- Enter the required sign up information for accurate identification
- Create a username/password and ensure your contact information is correct
- Read the User Agreement and "Confirm" your acceptance
- Select the Transit or Parking tab and choose your provider
- "Confirm" your selection. For transit, look for the WageWorks Commuter Card in your mailbox at the end of the next month. For parking, your provider will receive payment directly. No more checks to write! If you put money in a meter there is a "Pay Me Back" option available.
- The amount you elect will automatically be deducted from your paycheck. The amount will be split in half and deducted from the following month's first two paychecks. For example, the election you make by the 10th of February will be deducted from March's paychecks and the benefit will apply for April's commuting or parking needs.
Sign ups, changes and deletions must always occur by the 10th of the month that is two months in advance of the month you receive benefits (depending on the pass you choose).
If you need assistance or do not have access to the Internet, call toll-free 877-WAGEWORKS or email firstname.lastname@example.org.