When most people think about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) compliance, images of wheelchair ramps and closed captioning might come to mind but website accessibility is just as important. Think about it; websites for public use should be available to everyone no matter if they are disabled or not. And now more than ever, companies are facing lawsuits for not complying with the laws. It can cost a bit of money to reconfigure websites for these purposes, but the IRS does offer a tax break that can help.
Could I be Sued for Non-Compliance?
According to Forbes, websites that are not accessible can be targeted for lawsuits. If this happens to your company, you’ll receive a demand letter first − show it to an attorney to make sure that it’s valid. You should then have the chance to audit your website and make the changes needed to make it ADA-compliant. This usually involves working with accessibility specialists who perform audits and/or make the changes. But even if you haven’t received one of these letters, being proactive with an audit is highly recommended; if you ignore a demand letter, you could end up in court.
To be ADA-compliant, business websites must conform to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 AA Standards; Web Accessibility Initiative has a quick reference that explains how to meet these. It has information about using text and media alternatives, prerecorded sign language and timing adjustments. Lodging facilities have to comply with these as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(e)(1) when describing their accessibility options on their websites. You can try using a website accessibility checker to see what changes you need to make, and Web Accessibility Initiative also has a list of evaluation tools to read about.
What is the IRS Tax Credit for Website Accessibility?
Mannix posts that the IRS pays up to $5,000 to companies that invest in making their websites accessible to people with disabilities. This is per the IRS Code Section 44, Disabled Access Credit; you can complete their IRS Form 8826 when you do your taxes. Small business who earn up to $1 million in gross receipts or have 30 or fewer full-time employees in the preceding tax may be eligible.
The credit is further explained on the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) website. It’s meant to cover half of “eligible access expenditures” that exceed $250 but not more than $10,250; the maximum amount people receive is $5,000. It doesn’t only apply to website, either; qualifying expenses could also include removing physical barriers to access, providing an interpreter and other services and giving disabled employees modified equipment to help them perform their work.
A $5000 Tax Credit for Marketing
Since website accessibility makes your site more available to wider audiences, you can think of that $5,000 as a marketing credit, too. And remember, this is on top of the deductions that you can take; Nolo shows that “the cost of a business website is a deductible business expense.” This means that business owners are allowed to deduct the costs for designing and maintaining their websites. The IRS shows that other small business marketing and advertising can also be deducted but they must be reasonable and necessary; other guidelines apply.
If you decide to make your website accessible, it’ll first need to be evaluated by a provider that is familiar with WCAG 2.1 standards. There are no shortcuts for this fix and depending on the state of your website, the cost could run into the thousands. Cutting corners is not a good idea, and just adding a few tools to the website likely won’t hold up in court. The tax credit is a good incentive to do some good, so think about this offer if you’re still on the fence.