Getting on your bike and casually pedaling past the queuing traffic, doing something in the morning before work to improve your fitness, and topping up on energy – particularly if some part of your route to work takes you across fields or through some woods: More and more commuters are switching, at least occasionally, from the car to the bike. And if you use an e-bike, you can arrive at the office even over longer distances without being completely sweaty.
They do exist: Extreme pedelec commuters, who cover a daily commute to work of 40 kilometers each way, in all weathers. But even if you live closer to the office or factory and prefer to take the bus or the car if the weather is bad – the benefits for your own fitness, the environment and your wallet are still great. And as an added extra, it is also a lot of fun. To that, in these coronavirus times, you can also factor in the fear of infection when using public transport. There are many reasons why increasing numbers of people in Germany are switching to the bike in general, and particularly to e-bikes: In the last five years, according to the Federal Statistical Office, the number of electric bikes in German households has increased by a factor of five – from 1.5 million households in early 2015 to 4.3 million at the start of 2020.
Riding an electric bike is similar in effect to conventional pedal-pushing – that was the finding in a study by Basle University’s Department of Sport, Movement and Health. After just four weeks, it finds, the positive effects on health can be felt: Greater stamina, a more balanced mental state, and better figures for blood pressure and lipometabolism. The study results were obtained as part of the “Bike to work” initiative – which for a number of years has been encouraging employees to switch to the bike for their journey to work.
Switching from the company car to an e-bike, for example, also pays off financially, even if e-bikes are not cheap to buy in the first place: Just as with a conventional bike, the general per kilometer allowance of up to 30 cents per kilometer for your commute can be claimed when using an electric bike too.
Precisely how high the tax saving or tax burden for an e-bike is depends on several factors: The type of e-bike, the way you use it, and whether the employer is providing it for the employee. Company bikes can be any type of bike, hence e-bikes every bit as much as road bikes or mountain bikes.
Finanztip.de points out that S-pedelecs are motor vehicles: They assist cyclists at speeds up to 45 km/h – unlike a regular pedelec, which gives assistance up to 25 km/h and stops if the cyclist stops pedaling him- or herself. If the powered company bike is an S-pedelec, then the applicable pecuniary benefit for the journey from home to the first place of work is 0.03 per cent of the purchase price per kilometer – unless the employer pays tax on the costs of commuting at a fixed rate. If that is the case, employees are not allowed to claim a distance allowance in their tax return, says Finanztip.de.
If the boss is buying the S-pedelec, then according to Finanztip.de the tax allowances for company cars can also be used for the bike – currently just one quarter of the gross list price is used when calculating the pecuniary benefit. The supplement for the journey from home to work is similarly reduced by a factor of four. That way, the amount for wages tax and social insurance is also lowered.
If the bike is charged at work, this is tax- and duty-free until 2030 – and that applies for all types of e-bikes. The pecuniary benefit is similarly contribution- and tax-free if the employer provides the employee with an e-bike as a company bike in addition to salary and without any own contribution and it is agreed that the bike may also be used privately. However, according to lohnsteuerhilfeverein.net, the tax benefit only applies if it relates to an e-bike as a company bike which is not classified under the traffic regulations as a motor vehicle – which excludes the S-pedelec from this provision.
That all sounds complicated – but it is certainly worth having the conversation with your employer and getting detailed information from a tax advisor or the tax office.
If you are taking the e-bike to work, it’s not just the tax arrangements you need to look out for. Even if you can feel relaxed as you overtake the cars in the rush hour jams – in city traffic, particularly, riding the bike to work generally takes longer than you first think. For a 15 km route, you need to plan in around 35 to 40 minutes. But there is definitely one saving: The time spent looking for a parking space, which is often the case when travelling by car. However, you should check beforehand that there is a secure place provided at work for parking that expensive e-bike.
And even if the electric bike provides assistance with pedaling and you won’t be sweating as much as you would when pedaling a bike without an e-motor: Naturally, as a cyclist you will still get hot. So if you want to start your working day wholly perspiration-free and smart-looking, plan in some time to freshen up and arrange your hair.
A really important subject for anyone wanting to be more than just a fair-weather, daylight cyclist is the right equipment. With an S-pedelec, wearing a helmet and holding a driving license are also important, as is having the insurance sticker for it and insuring it.
While acknowledging all the benefits for your health and your wallet, commuting by e-bike can also make you feel happy and satisfied for a completely different reason. It is an active contribution to protecting the climate. That’s because, despite the fitted battery, travelling by electric bike certainly reduces your environmental footprint significantly. It requires less energy than a car or public transport, its manufacture requires fewer resources, and the CO2 emissions are similarly much lower. If you cycle, you are closer to nature and you experience the weather and the seasons more intensively than in the car. That’s another reason why some fair-weather cyclists become extreme pedelec commuters.
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