SAO Federal and Trust Fund employees are invited to take advantage of the Smithsonian's Transit Pass Program and pre-tax benefits for commuting expenses. The Smithsonian has enlisted WageWorks, Inc. (an online service company) to administer the commuter benefits program.
Transit Pass Program
Effective January 1, 2019, the transit subsidy for eligible enrolled participants changed to $265 per month. Eligible employees are those whose work/duty station is in the United States and who use mass transportation to commute to and from work. The amount of the benefit will depend upon the employee's actual transit cost to and from their work duty station (excluding parking). Employees should enroll for the amount of the actual cost to travel to and from their work duty station. Employees should not enroll in this benefit if they might travel using mass transit.
Please note: When you separate or retire from the Smithsonian, it is your responsibility to cancel your Transit Pass election and pay back any fare media amounts that have been paid for the upcoming month in which you are not eligible to receive the benefit. Additionally, if you request and are approved for an extended period of leave without pay, you must cancel or pause your participation in the WageWorks transit pass program and pre-tax commuter parking without delay.
Pre-tax Commuter Benefits Plan
Under the Pre-tax Commuter plan, the Smithsonian allows pre-tax payroll deductions for parking up to the IRS limit of $265 per month beginning January 1, 2019.
There are many transit options available to subscribers. The 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. 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, or if you put money in a meter there is a "Pay Me Back" option available.
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.
The deadline for ordering your transit and parking benefits is the 10th of each month. You should 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 2019 in order to participate for the February benefit month, you will need to do one of the following:
- Order your transit pass by the 10th of January for most monthly passes, one month in advance of the benefit month (February). Please refer to the WageWorks website for the appropriate deadline.
- 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. Payroll deductions for the February benefit month will occur in January.
Note: New employees should wait until the first Monday following the pay period in which they are hired to sign up. It takes approximately 2-3 weeks to submit the employee's initial eligibility record to WageWorks.
Enrollment/changes should take just a few minutes. There are two ways to enroll or make changes:
- Online. Go to www.wageworks.com and click on "First Time User? Register now" and follow the prompts. To finalize the online application, you must click "Submit". On the following screen, click "Place Commuter Order" for processing to occur.
- By Phone. Call 877-924-3967 between 8:00am and 8:00pm Eastern Standard Time and a WageWorks customer service representative will assist you with the enrollment process.
- Smart Phone. Employees can also access an existing account via their smart phones and other mobile devices to give participants anywhere, anytime, anyplace access to their WageWorks accounts. The application is designed to work on the most popular mobile devices and phones, such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Droid X and the Samsung Intercept. No download is necessary. Participants just need to point their mobile browser to www.wageworks.com and they will be directed to the mobile application. From the mobile application, participants will be able to access account information for their accounts. Other URLs participants can use are listed below.
All employees should be aware that the amount of benefits obtained either through the SI Transit Pass Program or the Pre-Tax commuter Benefit Program should be the actual amount of benefits needed to pay for the cost of mass transportation to and from their work duty station. Additionally, employees are not permitted to sell, barter, exchange or otherwise transfer cash or other goods or services obtained through use of these programs. Employees are not to return goods and services to the provider for cash or any other consideration other than for direct exchange of damaged or defective goods. WageWorks will not refund your account, or seek a refund on your behalf. You agree that you will not solicit or accept a refund or credit from any party for payments made from your account unless you return those funds to your account.
False or fraudulent statements or the sale, barter, exchange or transfer of fare media by the employee may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
Commuter Bicycle Reimbursement Program
The Smithsonian is pleased to offer the Commuter Bicycle Reimbursement Program to all employees as part of our overall support of employee wellness, and to reduce our environmental footprint by encouraging employees to commute by means other than single occupancy motor vehicles.
The program is one in which all Smithsonian employees can receive reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred for the purchase of a bicycle or bicycle improvements, repairs and storage if the bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee's home and place of employment. WageWorks will reimburse you up to $20 per qualified bicycle month (not to exceed $240 per year) for eligible expenses. Reimbursements are considered taxable to the employee. This means that any reimbursement you receive as part of the bicycle reimbursement benefit effective January 1, 2019 will be added to your income on your W-2 for 2019 (for W-2s received in 2020).
A qualified bicycle month includes:
- a month in which you did not receive any other commuter reimbursement or subsidy (such as transit, vanpool or parking), and
- a month in which you regularly use your bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between your residence and place of employment. WageWorks considers a substantial portion of travel to be at least 20%.
The Commuter Bicycle Reimbursement Program is easy to use. You do not need to complete an enrollment form to request reimbursement. You simply submit your Bicycle Expense Claim Form and appropriate receipts to WageWorks via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Important Note: You cannot be enrolled in the Smithsonian Transit Pass Program (transit subsidy) or the Commuter Option (pre-tax transit and parking) Program for the month in which you use the Commuter Bicycle Reimbursement Program.
Employees can request reimbursement within the calendar year but before the final deadline of March 31st of the subsequent calendar year. For example,expenses incurred between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018 can be claimed for reimbursement through March 31, 2019.
If you need assistance or do not have access to the Internet, call toll-free 877-924-3967 or email email@example.com.