Meridian Star

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January 4, 2013

From NASCAR to rum, the 10 weirdest parts of the 'fiscal cliff' bill

(Continued)

9. Crack down on tax cheats… in prison

The Internal Revenue Service has long worked with state and federal prisons to tamp down on fraud among prisoners who are filing tax returns. Yet as more and more states have been contracting out their jails and prisons to for-profit companies, the IRS has had difficulty sharing its data with private contractors. Never fear, section 209 of the fiscal cliff bill addresses this concern and allows the IRS to share its files with private prisons.

10. Provide incentives for commuters to take the bus or train

Hey, not all of the lesser-known aspects of the fiscal cliff deal are seedy giveaways to big corporations. There's also a small tax break that gives people incentives to take mass transit. (This provision was originally part of the 2009 stimulus but expired last year.)

For the past year, the tax code has subsidized driving to work over taking transit. If you drove, your employer could cover up to $240 per month in parking expenses tax-free. If you took the bus, your employer could only cover $125 in expenses per month tax-free. The two benefits have now been set at equal levels once again for 2012 (retroactively) and 2013. There's some evidence that this change will induce more people to take transit to work, though it will cost $220 million.

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