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Low Income Taxpayer Clinic

Lewis & Clark Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) gives students the opportunity to represent taxpayers of lesser means in controversies with the Internal Revenue Service, including audits and appeals before the IRS, trials and hearings before the U.S. Tax Court, and appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Alumna Profile

Caitlin Wong ’09Caitlin Wong ’09Caitlin Wong ’09

Of Counsel, Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP
When did you work in the clinic? What did you do?

During 2007-08, both as a student and a law clerk.

IMPACT

A former wife of a self-employed husband came to LITC for help with the IRS and her joint tax liability of six figures. She had no income and her husband controlled all the family finances. She had also experienced emotional and physical abuse. After filing a petition in U.S. Tax Court, the LITC obtained innocent spouse relief for this client, freeing her from the liability that resulted from the joint return.

My practice focuses on taxation, estate planning, trust and estate administration, business formation and transactions, tax controversies, business succession planning and wealth preservation, and trust and estate (fiduciary) litigation. I am admitted to practice in Oregon and Washington, and serve on the Executive Committee for the Taxation Section as past chair of the New Tax Lawyers Committee.

What parts of your clinic experience helped prepare you for your career?

All of it! Clinic was where I had my first meeting with a client, wrote my first letter to a client, prepared my first real court pleading, and gave client news on the outcome of their case. While all of these firsts would have occurred eventually, the benefit of clinic is that the professors were willing to adequately prepare me and immediately give me feedback on my performance, which I had time to reflect on. So often in practice we do not have the time to coach new associates or clerks with the same level of attention or to provide helpful and specific feedback.

A memorable moment?

I remember a conversation with Professor Jan Pierce about the definition of gross income. Under Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code, “gross income” means all income from whatever source derived. According to Jan, this definition is similar to Congress saying “dirt is dirt no matter where you get it from.” I almost died laughing and I use it all the time with clients and in presentations. It is such a funny and approachable starting point for explaining to clients that not every answer is quickly available in the tax code.

How do you view the clinic now?

Clinic was the best class I took as a student. I learned what the daily practice of law would be like and obtained an understanding of what would be expected of me as a young attorney. It gave me confidence in my developing skill set and helped me worry less during my first year in practice. Clinic taught me that I would make mistakes as a new attorney and how I should handle those mistakes. Clinic is where I first learned that I would enjoy practicing law.

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