Welcome to the Lewis & Clark Tax Law Program pages. Please take a look around our site by clicking on the links over on the far right. And feel free to contact us if you have any questions that aren’t answered here, if you want more information about our program, or if you’d like to discuss the study of tax law generally.
Lewis & Clark Clinic Makes Positive Difference for Low-Income Taxpayers
Professional tax advice doesn’t usually come cheap. Tax advisors typically charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their time — particularly if there’s an active dispute brewing between the client and the IRS. The high cost of representation creates an uneven playing field, on which the government has traditionally enjoyed a clear advantage.
Lewis & Clark Law School’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is one about 150 programs around the country that seek to change that state of affairs. The LITC represents low-income taxpayers without charge. One of the first clinics of its kind, the Lewis & Clark LITC opened its doors with the first wave of such services in 2000. Since then, our law students have advised hundreds of low-income individuals in controversies with the federal tax authorities. Under the supervision of LITC Director Jan Pierce, Lewis & Clark students have appeared on behalf of taxpayers of modest means in numerous cases in the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This work earns the students academic credit, as well as providing invaluable training for the students’ future practices.
The LITC gives students a chance to not only learn by doing, but to begin to learn how the IRS administers the tax system, i.e., to begin to learn how the IRS works. In the “tax controversy area,” knowing how the system works is almost more important than having massive amounts of substantive tax knowledge in one’s head. During the past academic year, the LITC scheduled 105 new client interviews, and accepted 93 as clients. The LITC represents taxpayers who have controversies with the Internal Revenue Service. It is a full service law office and it represents clients (1) at the audit stage, (2) at IRS Appeals Division Hearings, (3) at trial in U.S. Tax Court and occasionally in U.S. District Court and Bankruptcy Court, (4) through the collection process, and (5) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where appropriate.
In the LITC the law students (legal interns) “first chair” the cases under the supervision of the Tax Program Supervisor. All U.S. Tax Court judges are located in Washington, D.C. Historically the Tax Court Court comes to Portland, Oregon for Trial Calendars twice per year, once for a “Small” case calendar and once for a “Regular” case calendar. This past academic year the Court was in Portland for a Small case calendar which commenced on March 19, 2012. The LITC was involved in eight cases on this Calendar. The LITC settled two cases, withdrew in one case due to lack of client cooperation, gave advice in three, and tried one case. These cases involved such disparate issues as home buyers credit, identity theft, claim for attorney fees, etc. The case tried involved the issue of whether the client was engaged in coaching track with the intent to make a profit. The Regular case calendar commenced on April 30, 2012, and the LITC was involved in six cases on this calendar. We declined to represent two clients on this calendar because they both involved cash transactions. There was no paper trail, and we did not believe that could make a difference. We settled two of the cases. One involved innocent spouse relief, and the other involved the earned income credit, dependency exemptions and filing status. The other two cases involved advice only. The LITC is part of the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, and it is located in downtown Portland.
More information about the LITC can be found here.