Why did RRCD pursue and obtain in 1991 the much-valued tax exemption which places the club on the list of organizations not liable for year-end federal taxes?
The reason is that federal exemptions are respected by state and local tax authorities. By virtue of such an exemption, the club was able to avoid costly taxes imposed on it after its relocation from St. Paul Street to its present Lyell Avenue location.
Since the founding of the club some sixty years ago up to the big fire of its clubhouse on St. Paul Street in 1989, the club had been exempted by the City of Rochester from property taxes since the club provided beneficial services to the deaf community. Several months after the relocation to the present location on Lyell Avenue, the city tax authorities made a surprise visit to the clubhouse to determine if the purpose and intent of the club remained the same. The timing of the visit could not have come at the worst possible time; there was a social taking place and there were no interpreters available to facilitate communication between the club’s officers and the tax authorities. The authorities did not know what to make of this situation and decided to revoke the tax privilege that the club had since it acquired the property at St. Paul Street in 1966.
The first tax bill arrived sometime in the fall of 1999. It was in the neighborhood of 8,000 dollars. The club was in no position to pay that kind of bill; the assessment among each club member would have been in the hundreds. It was an impossible situation. The club officers contacted Jennifer Gravitz, a lawyer who is sign-language proficient, for advice. She suggested applying for the 501c(3) federal tax exemption. The exemption, then, could be applied against state and local taxes as well. She asked for a stay against the tax bill and permission was granted. After a year, the federal exemption was granted and thereafter, the club has enjoyed the benefits of tax exemption while providing a wide range of much needed services towards the deaf community.