Tax Deduction Supports Accessible Remodeling

Proposed rules requiring handicapped accessibility for retail businesses and public establishments of all types were announced in January 1991 by the U.S. government -- the latest step in implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act passed last year. Final guidelines will be issued later and will take effect in Janualy 1992. Under the new rules, any remodeling in a store checkout area, for example, would be required to include wheelchair accessibility, and no part of a facility could be made less accessible.

Rather than join those businesses that will delay or even resist complying with this mandate for fair treatment of "differently abled" citizens, cooperatives have here an opportunity to show leadership, to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We can demonstrate our mission of service and of increasing opportunities for ownership and participation by all.

Handicapped access is now a key design consideration. Of course, there are numerous other reasons that your business may consider expansion or relocation of its facility. Recently, I learned of a significant additional incentive for remodeling an existing or new location so that it is handicapped accessible.

A little known IRS deduction allows a business up to $35,000 for expenses involved in removing barriers to the disabled and elderly. For many stores, assuming the barrier removal is integral to the project, much of the cost of a major remodel could be covered by this policy. Instead of depreciating the expense of permanent facility improvements over many years, this $35,000 tax deduction can be taken in a single year.

Explicitly included under allowable expenses are such things as curb cuts and ramps, wider walkways, handicapped parking spaces, door platforms, and wheelchair accessible vehicles. But other expenses qualify also, so long as they remove a barrier for use of the facility by disabled or elderly persons, for at least one major class (e.g., blind, deaf, wheelchair access).

IRS Code section 190 deals with the Architectural Barrier Removal Deduction. It is outlined in IRS Publication 907, Tax Information, for Handicapped and Disabled Individuals, under "Business Tax Incentives." Thanks to Kris Olsen, a wheel chair user and co-op activist, for drawing my attention to a discussion of this tax deduction in an article by Gary Bosworth, a registered tax preparer, in the November 1990 edition of the publication Mainstream (2973 Beech St., San Diego, CA 92102; 619/234-3138.

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