Pre-Tax FAQ

Who is eligible to participate in this program?
When will I begin seeing my new deductions?
What is a “benefits holiday”?
What are some types of transit expenses?
Can I use my excess transit funds for parking, or vice versa?
What is an allowable pre-tax transit expense?
What is an allowable pre-tax non-UCSF vanpool expense?
What is an allowable pre-tax non-UCSF parking expense?
What are the savings?
How do I enroll in the pre-tax program?
Why do I have to pay a monthly fee of $3.00?
How do I use my HR Simplified pre-tax benefit card with Clipper card?
Which vendors are excluded from accepting the ECBS debit card as a form of payment?
Are bridge tolls an allowable pre-tax transit deduction?
How do I cancel my pre-tax deduction amount?
How do I change my pre-tax deduction amount?
Can I participate in more than one UCSF pre-tax deduction program?
What is the maximum pre-tax deduction?
What is the UCSF Company ID code needed to create an ECBS online account?
Can I use my prepaid debit card with Uber or Lyft?
Can I use my prepaid debit card with Chariot?
Can I submit transit or parking receipts for reimbursements?
My card was lost or stolen.  What should I do?
What is the maximum deduction I can choose to have payroll-deducted each month?
What happens if I choose to deduct more than $260 per month for either transit or parking?
If I elected less than $260 for a month, am I allowed to deduct more than $260 pre-tax the next month?
Is there a limit to how much I can deduct and keep on my prepaid debit card?
I just started working at UCSF but when I called ECBS I was told I’m not in their system.  What should I do?
I’m having trouble enrolling online?  What should I do?
I just received my replacement (or renewal) card in the mail?  What should I do?
Why can’t I use my debit card to pay for parking at Caltrain?
I prefer to use a mobile device to access my account.  Does ECBS have an app?
I want to cancel my account and receive a refund of my balance.  What should I do?
How long does it take to get a refund?


Who is eligible to participate in this program?

Under the rules governed by the IRS Section 132(f), tax-free commuter benefits can be provided to employees by their employers.  Therefore, only UCSF employees who receive monthly or biweekly pay through the UCSF Payroll department are eligible to make earnings deductions from their gross income (up to the monthly limit) to pay for qualified transportation or parking expenses.


When will I begin seeing my new deductions?

Your payroll deduction start date depends on when you enroll and place your order. If you submit your enrollment by the 1st of the month, your deduction will usually begin on your next biweekly or monthly paycheck.  Please note that payroll deductions are dependent upon payroll dates established by the campus and according to your established pay schedule. After you enroll, you will need to pay out of pocket until your deductions commence.

Please review the current UCSF Payroll Processing Calendar posted on the Controller’s Office website which indicates the dates for payroll deductions.

In general, monthly transit and parking elections will be payroll-deducted as follows:

  • 1st of month X (this month) - Always the cut-off date for placing a new order or changing an existing order for benefit month Y (next month)
  • 3rd of month X - ECBS sends UCSF payroll deduction information for benefit month Y for all UCSF participants
  • B1 Check Date in month X - biweekly deduction (50% of the amount submitted by ECBS)
  • B2 Check Date in month X - biweekly deduction (50% of the amount submitted by ECBS)
  • B3 Check Date in month X - NO biweekly deduction (twice a year, a 3rd biweekly pay period falls within the same month, resulting in a benefits deduction “holiday”; we recommend that you plan your deductions accordingly so that you have funds available for the following month)
  • MO Check Date in month Y - monthly deduction (full amount submitted by ECBS)


What is a “benefits holiday”?

Typically, biweekly employees receive two paychecks a month with each reflecting a deduction of 50% of their monthly commuter benefit election amount.  A “benefits holiday” occurs when a 3rd biweekly pay period falls within the same month and sees NO DEDUCTIONS for benefits, including pre-tax commuter benefits. The result is that you may not have enough pre-tax funds on your debit card to pay all of your commuter expenses the following month.  Biweekly employees are strongly encouraged to plan accordingly by contributing enough additional funds to your debit card to carry you through the benefits holidays that occur twice a year.  To assist in planning, you may use the Biweekly Benefits Deduction Schedule posted on the Controller’s Office website.


What are some types of transit expenses?

Transit expenses include passes for mass transit options such as buses, railways and ferries. Vanpool is defined as commuting in a highway vehicle that seats at least six adults (excluding the driver).


Can I use my excess transit funds for parking, or vice versa?

No. Due to IRS rules, you are not permitted to use transit funds on your ECBS-issued Commuter Check Card Prepaid Mastercard to pay for your parking, and vice versa.  They are treated as two separate “purses” of funds.


What is an allowable pre-tax transit expense?

Allowable expenses include any pass, token, voucher or similar item that entitles a person to transportation on any mass transit facility (such as train, bus, subway or ferry), provided by any person or public agency in the business of transporting persons for compensation of hire, or, if such transportation is provided in a highway vehicle with a seating capacity of at least six adults (excluding the driver).


What is an allowable pre-tax non-UCSF vanpool expense?

Qualified vanpool expenses include any highway vehicle for which the seating capacity is at least six adults (not including the driver) AND at least 80 percent of the mileage is used: (a) For purposes of transporting employees in connection with travel between their residences and their place of employment, and (b) On trips during which the number of employees transported for such purposes is at least 1/2 of the adult seating capacity of such vehicle (not including the driver).

Please note that the campus already has a pre-tax savings program for employees who are enrolled in a UCSF-controlled vanpool service. 


What is an allowable pre-tax non-UCSF parking expense?

Qualified parking expenses include parking at or near your work location or at a location from which you commute to work by carpool. The campus already has pre-tax savings programs for employees who are members of UCSF-controlled parking services. The new pre-tax non-UCSF parking program is for employees who park at non-UCSF controlled parking facilities, such as 44 Montgomery Street, San Francisco General Hospital or China Basin Landing.

Please note that the campus already has a pre-tax savings program for employees who have been issued permit parking at a UCSF-owned garage structure or surface lot.


What are the savings?

Exact savings depend on an employee’s specific tax rate.  For example, if your annual transit cost is $1,200.00 ($100.00 per month) and your combined federal and state tax bracket is 30%, you save $360 per year, less the $3/month administrative fee.  This results in an annual net savings of $324!

Use the 2018 Commuter Benefits Tax Savings Calculator to see how much you could be saving each month using pre-tax dollars to spend on your everyday commuter expenses.


How do I enroll in the pre-tax program?

Enroll online directly through https://www.commutercheckdirect.com

See instructions here.


Why do I have to pay a monthly fee of $3.00?

The University has contracted an outside vendor (ECBS) to administer its pre-tax transit program for a nominal fee of $3.00 per participant per month.  Your $3.00/month administrative fee remains the same whether you are enrolled in transit (including vanpool), parking, or both programs - as long as you have an election amount (“order”) for a benefit month.  This fee is deducted from your paycheck after taxes and sent to ECBS to pay for the administration of the pre-tax commuter benefits program.


How do I use my HR Simplified pre-tax benefit card with Clipper card?

After you receive your ECBS pre-tax benefit card, please ensure that you have been payroll-deducted before you use your pre-tax dollars to set up your Clipper card.  Go to the Clipper website at to access various participating transit agencies such as BART, Muni, Caltrain and many others that operate public transportation in the Bay Area.  You can also choose from the site menu to register a Clipper card, get Clipper discounts, set up autoload, and add value online.  When you set up autoload or add value to your Clipper card, you must enter your ECBS pre-tax benefit card number as your primary payment card to spend down your pre-tax dollars first.  It is also recommended that you set up a secondary credit card as a “back-up” card in case you spend all of your pre-tax funds.  Doing so allows you to continue using your Clipper (albeit with post-tax funds) for your transit needs until you are able to load additional pre-tax funds to your Clipper card. Clipper cards cost $3.00 each.  However, Clipper waives this fee if you set up autoload when you order your card online.

Did you know that Transportation Services is an authorized Clipper card retailer?  Just stop by one of our offices at Mission Bay (1625 Owens Street) or at Parnassus Heights (500 Parnassus, MU P7 Room 26).  And, we can even load your monthly pre-tax deductions to your Clipper card as well!


Which vendors are excluded from accepting the ECBS debit card as a form of payment?

Vendors that do not sell commuter products exclusively (such as Walgreens or Whole Foods) are excluded from the pre-tax program.  In addition, ticket vending machines (TVMs) that sell both parking and transit products (such as at Caltrain stations) are not considered IRS compliant and therefore do not qualify for payment using the pre-tax debit card.  You can use your ECBS prepaid debit card at dedicated commuter terminals that sell parking and transit products separately.


Are bridge tolls an allowable pre-tax transit deduction?

No. Bridge tolls (and Fastrak) are NOT “qualified” expenses in accordance with IRS Section 132(f) regulations. Therefore, they are not allowable expenses using pre-tax deductions.


How do I cancel my pre-tax deduction amount?

You may cancel at any time. You should go online to terminate any future orders immediately so that no more payroll deductions are taken.  If you want to initiate a liquidation (refund) of your balance, you will also need to notify ECBS to close your card.  Any remaining balances will appear on the following month’s invoice file from ECBS, and UCSF Payroll will process a payroll credit within 6-8 weeks, depending on the date of termination. 


How do I change my pre-tax deduction amount?

You can change your pre-tax deduction online through the ECBS website by going to the commuter benefit program enrollment/change tab. Click on enrollment action drop down menu, then select current participant and wish to change my monthly payroll deduction. Here is the link:


Can I participate in more than one UCSF pre-tax deduction program?

Yes. You can participate in multiple pre-tax programs as long as you do not exceed the allowable deduction limits. If you want to sign up for both parking and transit deductions, you will need to enroll in both programs with two discrete “purses” for your monthly pre-tax deductions.


What is the maximum pre-tax deduction?

Effective January 2018, the maximum monthly deduction for pre-tax parking and/or pre-tax transit is $260.  The maximum combined pre-tax contributions you can elect is $520 per month.


What is the UCSF Company ID code needed to create ECBS online account?

UCSF’s Company ID is 1550.


Can I use my prepaid debit card with Uber or Lyft?

Yes. Uber and Lyft have introduced the ability to use pre-tax commuter benefits dollars using their ridesharing platforms, UberPool and Lyft Line, which connect you with other passengers along your route.  Just link your ECBS commuter benefits card to your Uber or Lyft account(s).  Please note that you will not be able to use the card to pay for any other services that Uber or Lyft currently offer.


Can I use my prepaid debit card with Chariot?

Yes. You can use pre-tax dollars to pay for transportation to and from work using Chariot van commuter vehicles!  Just link your ECBS debit Mastercard to your Chariot account (register with your UCSF email).


Can I submit transit or parking receipts for reimbursements?

No, reimbursements are not permitted under the program.  You can only use your ECBS Commuter Check Prepaid Mastercard Flex to make transit- and parking-related purchases at commuter terminals where debit Mastercard is accepted.


My card was lost or stolen.  What should I do?

You should call ECBS immediately at 888-235-9223 to report your card lost or stolen.  Remember that your prepaid debit Mastercard carries a cash value and is your responsibility to keep secure!  The card will need to be closed and a new one issued to you (it may take up to 10 days to receive a new card in the mail).  Neither UCSF nor ECBS accepts responsibility for any unauthorized charges made using your prepaid debit Mastercard.


What is the maximum deduction I can choose to have payroll-deducted each month?

As of January 2018, you can elect to have up to $260 deducted pre-tax each month from your paycheck for transit (including vanpool) and up to $260 pre-tax per month for eligible parking expenses, totaling a maximum pre-tax monthly contribution of up to $520. 


What happens if I choose to deduct more than $260 per month for either transit or parking?

If you select more than $260 per month for one or both modes of commuting, any amount in excess of $260 will be payroll-deducted post-tax!  For instance, if you park in a non-UCSF garage that charges $350 per month rent, $260 will be deducted pre-tax and $90 will be deducted after tax from your paycheck and deposited into your prepaid debit card.

However, if you also choose to deduct $94 for a BART monthly pass in addition to your parking rent, the $94 will be deducted entirely pre-tax because it is a transit mode of commuting.  In other words, even though your TOTAL pre-tax deductions will be $444 ($350 parking plus $94 transit), you only pay post-tax on the one mode of commuting that exceeds $260 per month (i.e., parking in this example).


If I elected less than $260 for a month, am I allowed to deduct more than $260 pre-tax the next month?

No.  The IRS only allows a total maximum deduction of $260 per month per mode of commute (parking or transit).


Is there a limit to how much I can deduct and keep on my prepaid debit card?

Yes.  The maximum amount of pre-tax dollars that you may keep on your prepaid debit card is $2,000.  You will not be able to deduct more pre-tax funds after you have reached this threshold.


I just started working at UCSF but when I called ECBS I was told I’m not in their system.  What should I do?

New hires should wait at least a week for payroll data to be transmitted to ECBS.  Best time to enroll is on Wednesdays after the latest payroll file has been sent by UCSF. 


I’m having trouble enrolling online?  What should I do?

Please make sure that you are entering your HOME zip code (as reflected in OLPPS) and that you are entering UCSF’s Company ID 1550.  If you continue to experience issues, please call Transportation Services at 476-1511 for further assistance.


I just received my replacement (or renewal) card in the mail?  What should I do?

You should go online and activate your card as soon as you receive it so that you can begin using the funds immediately.  Please remember that you will be issued a new card number every time you receive a renewed or replacement card.  Therefore, you will need to update any accounts (for example, Clipper or Uber/Lyft) that are linked to your commuter benefits card.


Why can’t I use my debit card to pay for parking at Caltrain?

The Commuter Check Prepaid Mastercard Flex issued by ECBS is not authorized to work at Caltrain payment terminals because Caltrain’s payment systems process both parking and transit products in the same system (TVM) are therefore NOT considered compliant under IRS 132(f) regulations.  If ECBS debit cards were authorized to be accepted, then pre-tax dollars allotted for transit could be used for parking and pre-tax dollars allotted for parking could be used for transit, both of which are not IRS-compliant. 

Caltrain is aware of this issue; however, the only solution they currently offer customers who want to use their pre-tax commuter benefit cards to pay for parking at Caltrain is to visit their headquarters in San Carlos to purchase a monthly parking pass.  (You will need a Clipper card in order to do so.)

Please note that ECBS debit cards can be used to purchase Caltrain transit products because they work with Clipper vending machines and at http://www.clippercard.com for loading Caltrain fares or passes to Clipper cards.


I prefer to use a mobile device to access my account.  Does ECBS have an app?

Yes!  Information on how to download the MyCommuter app on Android and iPhones and manage your account can be found in the “Mobile App User Guide” provided by ECBS.


I want to cancel my account and receive a refund of my balance.  What should I do?

To terminate your ECBS account and receive a post-tax refund of your balance, you need to call ECBS at 888-235-9223 and specifically request that they close your card and cancel all future orders in order to trigger the action steps necessary to terminate your account and liquidate (refund) your balance. 


How long does it take to get a refund?

The 1st of the month is always the cut-off date for enrollments, changes and terminations that are reported to UCSF by ECBS for the following month.  Therefore, depending on the date you closed your card and cancelled all future elections, it can take up to 8 weeks for refunds to credited to you post-tax by UCSF Payroll. 

Please do NOT call Transportation Services or UCSF Payroll to inquire about your post-tax refund if it has been less than 8 weeks since you terminated your ECBS account.