Senate bill pushes employer tax credit for telecommuters


POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

A Senate bill making its way through the state legislature proposes tax credits for employers setting up telecommuting programs for employees.




Telecommute, Telework bills proposed

        Telecommute Bills

SB255: Povides an income tax credit for employers when their employees telecommute for work.


Status: Scheduled for a committee decision at 1 p.m. today.


HB898: Companion house bill to SB255.


Status: Referred to the other committees.


Telework Bills


HB1502: Establishes the telework task force within the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to develop a comprehensive plan that will encourage and expand telework opportunities in Hawaii. Makes an appropriation.


Status: Passed out of labor and public employment committee on Wednesday.


SB256 Senate companion bill to HB1502.


Status: Scheduled for committee decision at 1 p.m. today.


Senate Bill 255 proposes an income tax credit for employers setting up programs between Dec. 31, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2011. Employers would receive a maximum credit of up to $20,000 for the startup costs of a telecommuting program, and up to $1,200 per teleworker depending on whether they did it five days or 12 days per month.

A cap of $2 million in credits was set for calendar years 2009 and 2010.

The bill cites Hawaii as a state with one of the highest gas prices in the nation. Numerous studies support telecommuting as a viable workplace alternative that improves employee retention and decreases sick leave, according to the bill, while reducing traffic.

Last year, Georgia became the first state to enact a telecommuting income tax credit.

Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kalaeloa-Makakilo), introduced the bill this year as a follow up to one last year that was held in committee. The bill last year proposed a one-year pilot project promoting workplace flexibility including teleworking for state employees.

“;Traffic is getting worse every year, and the stress it causes people is enormous,”; said Gabbard. “;We should be giving significant tax breaks to companies who allow and encourage employees to work at home. This will decrease traffic, improve people's health and well-being, increase productivity, and allow people to spend more quality time with their families.”;

The Senate bill is scheduled for a decision in the committee on economic development and technology at 1 p.m. today.

The bill is supported by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce as well as Louis Darnell, president of ComTel, but opposed by Kurt Kawafuchi, the state's director of taxation.

Kawafuchi opposes it due to its administrative burdens and costs. The department has not factored the tax credit into the budget when it is already facing a shortfall. Employers could instead shoulder the cost, he said.

Another bill, House Bill 1502, seeks to establish a task force to look at telework opportunities in both the public and private sector.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Sharon Har (D, Makakilo-Kapolei), was approved by the labor and public employment committee on Wednesday.

John Bond, a West Oahu resident heading up the West Oahu Telework Project, supports telework centers such as the one that was successfully set up at Mililani Tech Park in the late 1980s.

For commuters from West Oahu, he said: “;It's an hour-and-a-half commute each way - that's three hours a day you're in a car.”;

Technology, including Web cams and software, are more affordable, he added, making it easier to implement telework alternatives.

“;Teleworking is what you do, not where you're supposed to be when you do it,”; he said.