In 2010, we were almost there. Training was complete, volunteers were eager to help, equipment was set up, and above all, we had confirmed appointments.
And then, they pulled the plug.
“Sorry, our lawyers are advising against this. We can’t let you prepare taxes on our site.”
Muslim Community Association or MCA is a visionary Muslim community center in the heart of Silicon Valley. It is known for its management, organization, and all-inclusive community that takes pride in its diversity.
When I was first approached by the then social secretary at MCA to spearhead the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), I was ecstatic. VITA is free tax preparation program run by the IRS. There are more than 12,000 VITA sites nationwide that provide free tax preparation during the tax season.
I got involved with VITA during my time at San Francisco State. It was a fun experience and I learned a great deal about the amazing world of taxation.
Plus, that extra course credit came in handy.
MCA runs continuous social service programs such as a legal clinic, basic medical clinic, and career services. I figured tax preparation would be a welcome addition to its roster of social service programs.
But we hit a roadblock with the Lawyers at the last moment.
This came as a shock to me because MCA approached me, not the other way around. One would have thought they did their homework and were aware of the program. I didn’t think that any organization would feel uncomfortable if IRS sanctioned program operated on its property.
It just didn’t make sense.
I never found out really what happened behind the closed doors. The decision to not have the tax preparation on MCA premises was made by the Board of Directors. When I spoke to one of the BODs, I was told the lawyers were not comfortable due to liability.
We called it quits and moved on.
Fast forward to 2016.
Another Muslim organization, Muslim American Society, approached me to bring the tax prep to their office in Santa Clara. At roughly 600 sq ft, their office space was an ideal fit.
They had heard about what happened at MCA.
After the MCA episode, I got involved with Tax-Aid. It’s similar to VITA but it’s not funded by the IRS. It’s a non-profit created by Bay Area accountants and lawyers to help low-income taxpayers with free tax preparation.
Every year during the tax season, it runs many sites in the Bay Area in collaboration with local non-profits such as libraries, community centers, and churches.
After I got the site approved, we got to work.
We did two sessions at MAS office in Santa Clara. As the site was new, the turnout was low.
My awesome volunteers gave their 100%.
I am already looking forward to the next year.