The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic provides low-income taxpayers with free legal representation in Federal tax matters. Clients are represented directly by students who are supervised by Jan Pierce, the Tax Program Director with over 27 years of experience as an attorney with the Chief Counsel of the IRS. My experience at the Clinic over the summer provided me with the opportunity to apply the legal writing and research skills learned in my first year of law school to real world matters. These matters were in support of low-income individuals who had no other means to deal with the tax controversies they had before the IRS.
The Clinic handles a variety of issues before the IRS, including but not limited to disallowed deductions, notice of liens against a taxpayer, notice of deficiencies by the IRS, and instances where a taxpayer has simply failed to file taxes for several years. These controversies, and those not listed, had various means by which they could be resolved and it was my responsibility to help find the most beneficial resolution for our clients.
One of the biggest issues that can lead to a deficiency before the IRS comes from the disallowance of a claimed credit or deduction by the IRS. These claimed deductions or credits varied from an over estimation of the interest paid on a home, to claimed losses from a business transaction, to simply misapplying specific tax statutes pertaining to a wide range of issues. It therefore became important to have an understanding of a wide range of legal issues pertaining not only to the Internal Revenue Code and the United States Tax Code, but also the Internal Revenue Procedures, Proposed Regulations, and various other legal disciplines.
The biggest surprise to me came from my interactions with the clients and the amount of help we were able to provide them. From cases pertaining to innocent spouse relief (where a person’s former spouse has left them with a tax burden they should not be responsible for) to disallowed child credit deductions, our work had a real impact on people’s lives. It never occurred to me how detrimental these situations could be to a person’s financial well-being, but on a consistent basis I was fortunate enough to see how much we were really helping our clients. For many people when the IRS comes and threatens you with a deficiency on an unknown tax issue they have nowhere to go. Most of our clients were gratified just to know they had someone in their corner and it was very rewarding to know that.