Saturday, January 31, 2009
Universal Design: Tax Incentives
If you live with a physical limitation, you have added expenses that are rather obvious: maybe a specialized car, home, appliances, electronics, etc. You pretty much know that if you are relocating, the home you choose will require expensive modifications just so you can move in - we’re not even talking about decorating!
If you are able-bodied, do you have such added expenses? The obvious answer is no. You relocate, move in and start decorating - no remodeling the bathroom just to take a shower. The less obvious answer is, yes. How much disability adds to your expenses varies depending on what you include. Your taxes have about $300 billion to support those who would work but can’t because work isn’t accessible! If those people were in the workforce, they would be contributing about $200 billion in tax revenue. Where do you feel this invisible but real financial pinch? It’s in your payroll taxes - the ones your employer deals with, the one that’s a disincentive for new business and innovation.
What does reversing the tax pinch look like? Rather than having the expense show up as a disincentive, lets have it show up as an incentive:
• Building universal design homes gets tax credits based on specific features (a universal design bathroom gets $500 credit; an elevator gets $1000; and so on). Presently Virginia's Department of Housing and Community Development offers a $500 tax credit.
• If remodeling your home because you have to accommodate a new disability and would otherwise have to leave your home, make it a medically tax deductable.
• Provide intelligently designed increases in disability tax credits. If you’re the one forced to pay for home modifications, sweeten the deal because when you are done, you’ll have added to the real estate market a soon to be much needed commodity, universal design housing.
• Building departments typically burden the process of granting permits; in addition to tax incentives, a universal design application could get priority status. Building departments could find other means to encourage universal design housing such as fewer restrictions; for example, allowing smaller lot sizes.
• Do you have a school tax? Create a tax incentive by lowering the school tax if a home is built or modified to meet universal design standards. Typically the occupants will be empty nesters thereby adding to any lost tax revenue.
Compared to government mandates, tax incentives keep us, the individuals who are the soul of this great country in the driver’s seat. We make the choice, and, that what universal design is about, having choice.
January 31, 2009