Unlike bartering, which places a cash value on goods and services (and is taxed accordingly), time bank services are considered charitable acts informally traded among members of a group.
This reciprocity gives time banks an impact beyond the pocketbook, says Cahn: They free members from “feeling trapped and powerless to make a change upward in their quality of life.”
Time dollars earn no interest and have no equivalent monetary value. Each hour of one member’s service equals an hour of another’s, regardless of market value. Stuffing envelopes is worth exactly as much as preparing a tax return, mending a pair of socks or rewiring a lamp.
By placing the same value on all services, time banks not only avoid tax issues, but also encourage members to share abilities that might not have much cash value but can do much to help neighbors.
If you want to join a time bank, you can check if your community has one by going to the website of TimeBanks USA, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit founded by Cahn.
If you find nothing and decide to create a bank, you’ll find lots of resources at the site, including articles and Community Weaver 2.0, an open-source software tool for recording time credit balances.
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