Bay Village tax exemptions should include Peace Corps volunteers

The Regional Income Tax Agency (also known as R.I.T.A.) taxes every penny it can without any regard to the message it sends to those who serve the United States.

Tax time can be sobering for many Americans filing to good old Uncle Sam but this year it wasn’t the man in the big top hat that was sobering, it was R.I.T.A.

While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Kazakhstan from August 2006 – November 2008, I learned that R.I.T.A had taxed my yearly income of $2,400. I thought, “This can’t be, there has to be an exemption for those members of the community who serve our country.”

Reviewing the R.I.T.A. tax code exemptions I found under Section One, military are exempted but there is no mention of Peace Corps volunteers. It was apparent that there needed to be a new interpretation of the tax code to include Peace Corps volunteers and the matter needed to be discussed with both the Bay Village Finance Committee and R.I.T.A.

After several conversations with the Bay Village Finance Department staff members, it was recommended to write the Bay Village Finance Director with my concerns in regards to the tax code. My letter addressed the following:

There is a tacit acknowledgement of the importance of not only military service but the service with the international community. I volunteered to be part of an organization to help serve my country. The military (which receives exemptions, according to current tax code) is a volunteer organization, as is the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is a federal agency, as is the military. I gave up the comforts and freedoms of home to help the interests of our country, following what the founder of the Peace Corps exulted in one of his most famous quotes: “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.”
There is an exemption for military service (which I fully support) but no apparent exemption for volunteer service in the Peace Corps. This lacks the fairness that all tax codes and policies should strive to achieve. R.I.T.A., which serves 158 municipalities throughout the state of Ohio, is the only city tax agency that taxes Peace Corps volunteers. I have contacted more then 25 other Peace Corps volunteers who reside in the Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern United States to find that I was the only one who was obligated to pay city taxes on the income earned in the Peace Corps. Most importantly, the amount of tax revenue that would be lost to the city of Bay Village with the proposed tax code amendments would be insignificant but the power of the recognition of service to one’s country would be significant.
I met with the Bay Village Finance Committee on Tuesday March 9, 2009. I presented my case to the all of the members of the Finance Committee and it was promised that they would invite discussions on possibly changing the language in the exemptions to include the Peace Corps volunteers.
In conclusion, if we want a “change” in our society, we need to start reflecting this on a local level. I ask my fellow citizens to please ask and/or write to your local city finance committee representatives to change the interpretation of the language with the R.I.T.A. tax exemptions so that those who serve our country, not only in the military but also in the Peace Corps, are recognized. The impact of the community has a louder voice than just one individual, who is apparently the only volunteer to address to the Bay Village Finance Committee on this issue. The current tax code is improvident and not based on fairness. Let’s stand together as a community to send a message of appreciation and recognize the sacrifices made by Peace Corps volunteers by providing a tax exemption from monies earned out of the country. Together, we can make a change.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 3:21 PM, 09.21.2009