Just Mobility

Abolition of the commuter allowance

What's the problem?

In the German tax law there is the distance lump-sum, which is also called "commuter's tax allowance". Thanks to this commuter lump-sum, employees in Germany who commute to work can be reimbursed a large part of their travel costs as part of a tax relief. Thereby it doesn't matter which means of transport is used for commuting. The flat rate is only calculated on the basis of the distance to the workplace and the number of working days per year. Currently, € 0.30 per kilometre can be deducted from income tax. This means that people accept long distances to their workplace, which is extremely questionable in terms of climate protection.

What's the measure?

Abolition of the commuter's tax allowance in German tax law.

How can the implementation look like?

First, all that is needed is a change in the tax law. This does not entail any significant costs. Instead of the commuting allowance, laws could be enacted to financially support climate-friendly modes of commuting to work. Rail tickets or monthly public transport passes for commuters, for example, could be subsidised. It would also be possible to cap or stagger the subsidy in order not to encourage very long commuting distances. Companies could also be obliged to support their employees financially if they use climate-friendly transportation to get to work.

How will this work against climate change?

This makes it unattractive for employees* to choose a job that is further away from their place of residence. Therefore the measure reduces general traffic in the long term. In addition, a strong steering effect can be achieved from climate-damaging (motorised) individual transport to climate-friendly local public transport and rail transport for commuting to and from work. The consequences are less car traffic and lower CO2 emissions.

How quickly can the measure be implemented?

As this is only a change in German tax law, the measure can be implemented immediately. A subsidy for climate-friendly means of transport for commuting to work, as described above, could also be implemented quickly.

How long does it take for the measure to have an effect?

The steering effect described for the choice of means of transport would have an immediate effect. In the longer term, people would tend to choose a shorter distance from home and work.

References to other measures

The steering effect from motorised private transport to public transport must be accompanied by a strong expansion of public transport. Otherwise, there will be an overload of the public transport system and the railways, which are already heavily used.

Problems of social, global and generational justice

Important questions at this point are: - What about employees who depend on taking the car, because commuting by public transport would take a ot of extra time and effort and therefore be impossible? For them, the measure would entail financial losses.

Further literature, sources

More extensive literature which cannot be fully reproduced here, but which may have served as a basis for the measure, or which is of interest elsewhere.