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Release: May 9, 2000

Passage of tax credit bill for disabled workers is lauded

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Many at the University of Iowa and elsewhere are elated by the news that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is expected to sign into law a tax credit bill that, among other things, could mean more jobs for persons with disabilities.

Students at the UI's College of Law Clinic and their professor Leonard Sandler helped the Systems Change Network and lawmakers draft and revise the Assistive Device Tax Credit Act, which is included in House File 2560, recently passed by the General Assembly. The amendment allows small businesses a tax credit up to $2,500 per year on the first $5,000 a small business spends to make workplace improvements for current disabled employees or those it expects to hire.

The bill's passage is "a milestone and a victory for small businesses and Iowans with disabilities," wrote Sandler to those who worked to get the bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature.

Clinic interns, second-year student Janette Rodecap and third-year student Tria Lawton-Russell, and various others, spent considerable time drafting the credit bill language for consideration by the Iowa Legislature. Together they provided the Systems Change Network, a grass-roots organization run by and for persons with disabilities, with technical assistance and advice about state and federal legislation and workforce development initiatives.

The cost of making workplace modifications varies across businesses, Rodecap said, adding that the assistive tax credit bill is an incentive to businesses to make improvements that otherwise they might not. Such modifications can include specially adapted keyboards, sound and vision enhancing equipment, and other items and technologies.

"The timing is right for this bill," says Mary Quigley, director, Iowa Program for Assistive Technology. "This bill, along with the recently enacted Medicaid buy-in legislation, addresses major barriers to employment for persons with disabilities, health insurance and workplace modifications."

Currently, a federal tax incentive that covers assistive devices applies only to small businesses that must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA only covers employers with 15 or more employees or businesses that are considered public accommodations.

She says at least 57,000 of the state's businesses have 20 or fewer employees. That 57,000, Quigley says, represents 90 percent of Iowa businesses and 70 percent of Iowa employees.

Small businesses are defined in the legislation as having had either gross receipts in the prior tax year of $3 million or less, or employed 14 full-time workers or fewer during a prior tax year.

The tax credit, as it reads, is applicable for the first $5,000 paid during a single tax year for the purchase, rental, or workplace modification used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability in the workplace or on the job.

For more information about the Assistive Device Tax Credit, contact the University of Iowa Legal Clinic at (319) 335-9023 or Mary Quigley, co-director, Iowa Program for Assistive Technology at (319) 356-4402.