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Commuter Tax Benefit In Effect For Those Who Use Mass Transit

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A bigger tax break for commuters is now in effect after a deal reached by Congress last month brings parity between those who drive to work and those who take buses, subways or commuter trains.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Charles Schumer spent their morning Monday handing out flyers to subway riders hoping to spread the word about a new commuter tax benefit, CBS2's Diane Macedo reported.

The benefit, which took affect Jan. 1, allows commuters to deduct up to $255 a month from their taxes to pay for mass transit costs.

It nearly doubles the $130 a month tax break offered to commuters last year after Congress had allowed the mass-transit benefit to expire on Jan. 1, 2015.

"You could always do this if you drove to work, but if you're a mass transit user, you could take only half of that deduction and for a while, you couldn't take any of that deduction," Schumer said.

And unlike previous increases which had to be renewed, de Blasio said this one is permanent.

"From this point on, that number will continue to grow with inflation," he said.

Schumer said more than 700,000 commuters in the Tri-State area will take advantage of the transit tax benefit and he hopes with equal tax breaks, those numbers will rise as more drivers ditch their cars for trains and buses.

"This is a real victory for urban areas and New York in particular where we have so many riders," Schumer said.

In addition, New York City took things one step further with a new local law.

"It requires businesses with 20 or more full-time employees to allow workers to use pretax income to pay for their commuting costs," de Blasio said. "Before it was voluntary."

A commuter named Gloria said she didn't know about the program.

"It's a good opportunity for all of us that take the trains everyday," Gloria told 1010 WINS Glenn Schuck. "It's great."

"I think it's a good opportunity for all of us to take the trains every day," commuter Claudia Morhbi said.

The benefit could save some people more than $1,000 a year.

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