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If you attended Jumu’ah at any masjid in the Atlanta area this November or December, or if you or a relative has a child in one of the area’s Islamic schools, you may have been bombarded with announcements or flyers about participating in the Georgia Tax Credit Program.
When they hear those 4 little words, most people’s eyes glaze over. “Yes, insha’Allah, I’ll fill out a form this year,” they tell the eager brothers who hand out, believe it or not, a tax form, with wording from the IRS, a request for Social Security numbers, and a very “government bureaucracy” tone. How boring and annoying. Heads nod, promises are made, some go along with this out of peer pressure, others succeed in avoiding it and dashing for their car. “The money will run out at midnight on January 1, please don’t delay!” you hear some school board member plead. “Ok, Ok, I’ll do it before midnight…”
Well, let me tell you a secret. The boring form, the complicated-sounding details, it is all just a brilliant technique to actually distract you from the reality that this program is the most generous, revolutionary, people-power method to advance the cause of Islamic education.
The benefits of participating are so astounding that anything less than 100% participation by taxpaying GA Muslims is inexcusable. Unity around this program would be THE Change Agent of the Century in our Muslim community!
So here is what you need to know…skip to the NEED TO KNOWs for an even briefer summary.
Like it or not, the GA Department of Revenue collects billions of dollars annually in mandatory income taxes. Because of political pressure from certain groups, something called the Qualified Education Expense Credit was created as a way to give tax dollars to private schools, religious or secular. GA taxpayers are given the choice to redirect their state tax liability towards a specific private school, whether or not they have children enrolled there.
The government sets limits each year on how much of people’s tax dollars may be redirected from normal tax-funded programs (like public education, public transportation, public assistance, etc) to private schools. This year the state will allow $58 million to be redirected, if this option is selected by GA taxpayers. Demographic realities determine that over 95% of this money gets redirected to Christian schools in Georgia.
Need to Know #1
A portion of your GA tax dollars WILL be redirected towards private schools, whether you agree with this or not. You must pay your GA state taxes by law. If YOU don’t select the school, the government will—and due to the numbers, your money will go to support other private education.
It's a redirection, not a donation
The GA Tax Credit Program does NOT take extra money away from anyone. It merely REDIRECTS your mandatory state tax liability from default purposes towards your selected purpose: the Islamic private school of your choice.
See how it works, in simple language:
December 2014: You make a commitment to participate. Fill out the form, no money needed.
March 2015: Pay your predicted 2015 GA state tax UP FRONT in one lump sum. You may choose any size lump sum, UP TO your max tax liability. So if you are married filing jointly, you may write a check for $2500, if you earn enough to owe that much in taxes, OR any amount less than that, even $1.
Summer to Fall 2015: Your lump sum goes to your selected Islamic school, investing in education and the future of our Ummah.
January to December 2015: You continue to get your 2015 state taxes deducted from your paycheck monthly in the normal way it has always happened.
January 2016: The GA Dept of Revenue sees that you paid MORE THAN what you owe—once in a lump sum, and then again monthly in paycheck deductions. They know they owe you a refund.
By April 2016: You file your 2015 state taxes as usual, but this time, you receive a full refund of the amount you gave in your lump sum, since you overpaid your 2015 state taxes with both your lump sum and your monthly deductions from your paycheck.
Need to Know #2
It is a redirection, not a donation. You loan the money up front, then get it all back one year later.
Masjid vs. Islamic School?? Think Again.
This GA Tax Credit Program is advertised annually by our small Islamic schools who qualify to participate. The schools feel VERY alone in this effort. They run into the problem of seeming to compete with the many masaajid in GA and metro Atlanta which are continuously in a fundraising mode. The GA Tax Credit Program announcements are drowned out in the many fundraisers for the new masjid buildings, the community centers, and charity drives for hunger, orphans, etc. But it is a BIG MISTAKE to equate these funding efforts.
The masjid leaders and supporters need to see that encouraging 100% participation by GA taxpaying Muslims is a huge BOON to their fundraising efforts. Why? Because if we UNITE to participate in the GA Tax Credit Program at a rate close to 100%, there will be so much less need to raise funds for Islamic schools through donations. Imagine: if all GA Muslims redirected their taxes to the few Islamic schools, these schools would never need another fundraiser again! The money of the Ummah of GA would still be intact, ready to donate towards the establishment or expansion of a masjid, or to a charitable cause.
Need to Know #3
Taking advantage of the GA Tax Credit Program is a NO COST way to fund Islamic schools, thus freeing Muslim money for donations like funding for a masjid, or giving to charity causes.
Those who redirect their taxes get multiplied benefits.
A little known fact: even though the state of Georgia considers participation as a redirection of your mandatory taxes, the federal government considers it a DONATION. You can claim the full amount you paid up front as a charitable contribution, and get federal tax benefits! Also, if you work for a company that has a Matching Program, they also consider it a DONATION, and will match your redirection dollar for dollar, thus doubling your contribution to the Islamic school of your choice.
Even more valuable, from an Islamic viewpoint the effect of your action is AS IF it is a charitable donation, since you are MAKING THE CHOICE to participate. Participation in the GA Tax Credit Program is a choice that moves your money intentionally towards an Islamic cause. Thus it is considered as a SADAQA JAARIYA, and your dollars that fund children’s learning in the shade of Islam will be multiplied as Allah SWT has promised regarding continuous charity. Allahu Akbar!
Need to Know #4
Participating in the GA Tax Credit Program brings multiple benefits in this life and the next, dunya and aakhira!
Bottom line: Do it! Deadline is December 31
Who can say NO to the GA Tax Credit Program? Don’t miss the December 31 deadline to merely take Step 1: Fill out a short, 1-page form designating the school of your choice.
The form does not obligate you—you can change your designated school, designated amount, or cancel your participation at any time before you are asked to pay forward your 2015 state taxes.
Action Step #1: The Form
Here are some Islamic schools that are participating in the GA Tax Credit Program. Each school uses its own version of the form. A website link is included, guiding you to the online 1-page form and further details. Check with other Islamic schools to see if they participate in the program also. IMPORTANT: Make sure you include the name of the school you have designated on this form.
Hamzah Academy then click on the Scholarship tab
Co-Chair, United Islamic Schools of Atlanta
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