Journalism in the Public Interest

IRS Offers Tax Break for Homeowners With Defective Drywall

The IRS will allow homeowners to take a deduction for costly replacement of harmful drywall.


Piles of drywall (future15pic/Flickr)

The federal government has made a modest step toward offering some financial relief to homeowners dealing with contaminated drywall. The Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday that it will allow homeowners to write off expenditures they have or will incur trying to fix their homes.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recommended (PDF) that homeowners remove all the drywall, along with the electrical, gas and fire safety systems -- essentially gutting the homes. The drywall, most of it imported from China, emits high amounts of hydrogen sulfide, which can corrode wiring and other electronic appliances, causing refrigerators and air conditioners to fail. Homeowners also have complained that the drywall triggers respiratory problems, nosebleeds and severe headaches.

According to the new IRS policy, homeowners can treat the amount they paid for these repairs as a "casualty loss in the year of payment." Casualty losses are typically reserved for repairs homeowners have made after a natural disaster or sudden event.

The policy includes some important caveats. For example, if a homeowner has filed a claim with an insurance company, the homeowner can write off only 75 percent of the amount the insurance didn't cover. Homeowners also must itemize their federal tax returns. Deductions will be granted only for amounts that exceed 10 percent of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income for the year the claim is filed and for amounts that exceed $500.

Taxpayers who have already filed tax returns for the year in which they paid to fix their houses have three years to amend their returns and claim the deduction.

Most insurance companies are not reimbursing homeowners for drywall problems. In fact, some homeowners say their insurers canceled their policies after they filed a claim.

The tax deduction helps only those homeowners who can afford to repair their homes, which can be very expensive. Ridding a house of its drywall and wiring, as the product safety commission recommends, can cost $100,000 or more.

Three U.S. senators -- Bill Nelson, D-Fla. and Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb -- along with Virginia Congressman Glenn Nye first began asking the IRS to offer such a deduction in June 2009, and have written additional joint letters since then. Webb also filed amendments to two separate bills that would have required the IRS to offer the casualty loss deduction -- but the amendments weren't included in the final legislation.

"This is welcome and long overdue news," Nelson said. "This tax relief is just another important step to help drywall victims piece their lives back together."

On Wednesday, the day before the IRS made its announcement, Warner called Commissioner Doug Shulman and urged him again to take action, Warner's spokesman said.

"This is a key step forward in our efforts to provide some measure of relief to homeowners who have been struggling financially due to contaminated drywall issues," Warner said in a statement after the IRS announcement. "Our office continues to work individually with Virginia families, including intervention with their mortgage lenders, and we will continue to look for ways we might be helpful to these families."

Webb said the IRS action was "an important step forward for thousands of American families whose homes have been contaminated with Chinese drywall."

"I have heard directly from my constituents about the emotional, physical, and financial hardship they continue to face as they struggle to maintain payments on houses that have been rendered uninhabitable, while also paying for a place to live and often dealing with corresponding health issues," Webb said in a statement. "I will continue working to ensure that those affected receive the necessary federal attention."

While there are plenty of homeowners and builders struggling with this difficult issue, I marvel at the willingness of these elected officials* to make all the other taxpayers share this private burden.

The US is spending far beyond its means and the only response from people in Congress is to spend more and more of our money (i.e. future taxes) for their own reelection purposes.

Unfortunate things happen in life all the time. Not all (or even most) require a law or tax break or new regulatory agency.

*Sen - Bill Nelson, D-Fla. and Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb—along with Virginia Congressman Glenn Nye

The IRS Whistle blowers office is incompetent with claims worth millions of dollars sitting unanswered for years ProPublica needs to start an investigation ASAP

People who have a bad product from China get a tax break to fix the problem. The companies who profited from selling us a bad product pay a small fine. The American taxpayer is burdened with the cost. A prime example of socializing the cost, debt, loss and risk, while privatizing the profit. Thanks again conservative leadership for selling out America.


Oct. 3, 2010, 5:32 p.m.

This deduction only helps the Chinese drywall homeowners who are already wealthy enough to have fixed their homes for the estimated cost of $86 square foot.  “This revenue procedure applies to any individual who pays to repair damage to that individual’s personal residence or household appliances that results from corrosive drywall”.  This in no way assists the 99% of the Chinese drywall homeowners who can’t afford to fix their homes to begin with!
This is just like a year ago when the government told us to go and get CDBG!  We did not qualify for those either!  Most of us are middle class and have been out of our homes for 18 months with little to no assistance! Those are the lucky ones!  The other families cannot afford to get out of their homes and are stuck living in these toxic environments! Our government needs to step up and recognize that this toxic product was allowed into this country and now they must take steps to truly assist these Victims of Toxic Chinese Drywall and help our judicial system to recover the money from China for our losses.
If you have CDW and want to join the lobbying efforts of the Victims of Chinese Drywall write to us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Skip the three billion dollar welfare check to Israel this year. That should help some, right?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Tainted Drywall

Tainted Drywall: How Companies Kept Silent While Homeowners Suffered

Foul air from Chinese-made drywall has created a nightmare for thousands of homeowners.

The Story So Far

ProPublica and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune began examining in May 2010 what was—or wasn’t—being done to help people whose homes had been built with contaminated drywall. The problematic drywall, much of it imported from China, emitted foul odors and frequently caused mysterious failures of new appliances and electronics. Worse yet, some residents complained of serious respiratory problems, bloody noses, and migraines.
More »

Search Our Database for Homes With Tainted Drywall

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories