A new tax clinic at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law aims to provide legal services to low-income families in need of tax law help while providing law students a unique educational opportunity to gain on-the-job experience before graduation.
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic program is a matching grant program from the Internal Revenue Service that provides federal funds to organizations so they in turn can provide services to taxpayers who are low income or who speak English as a second language. The University of Utah this month joins the list of several clinics across the country who help clients in need through providing:
- Representation for individuals in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service, including audits, appeals, collection matters, and federal tax litigation. The clinic can also help taxpayers respond to IRS notices and correct account problems.
- Education about taxpayer rights and responsibilities.
- Advocacy on behalf of low income and ESL taxpayers.
Services are free or low cost for eligible taxpayers. Each clinic determines whether prospective clients meet income guidelines and other criteria before agreeing to represent them.
The new venture is the latest addition to a strong clinical program at the S.J. Quinney College of Law that allows students to gain practical legal experience as part of their law school coursework for credit. Clinics include a classroom component, and offer a forum for students to reflect on their experiences. Clinical placements help students to develop a range of practice-related skills and to gain insights into their strengths and career preferences.
Before the addition of the new low income tax clinic, in recent years the law school’s clinical program has added faculty-supervised clinics in environmental law, innocence, appellate practice and public policy work. Taking advantage of the college’s wide selection of clinical opportunities, many students enroll in several different clinics during law school. Students may earn up to 14 credits toward graduation from clinical placement work, which helps them to be ready for the work force and real lawyering experiences, said Linda Smith, director of the clinical program.
Mark H. Howard, the associate director and qualified tax expert for the tax clinic, said that the law school’s program will be the first in Utah with the capability of having students appear in the United States Tax Court as student attorneys to represent low income taxpayers. The students can also help with other representation before the IRS during the audit, collection and appeals phases of cases.
The new tax clinic will be a welcome opportunity for law students interested in pursuing a career in the field. Nathan Firouzi, a third-year law student, is among the first S.J. Quinney College of Law students to participate in the new clinical program option.
“I wanted to participate in the low-income taxpayer clinic for two reasons. First, participating allows me the opportunity to apply what I have learned in classes in a guided environment. It bridges the gap between receiving classroom instruction and practicing. Second, I think one of the most efficient ways to reduce stress is to have a good financial plan. This clinic provides access to the first steps to those low income individuals struggling with tax debts. Receiving a tax liability notification from the IRS is a stressful event. That stress is compounded for low income individuals because of the lack of resources available to them,” said Firouzi.
“This clinic provides me with the opportunity to gain first hand court experience in a specialized area. I have been interested in Tax law since I started law school. It has been my goal to take as many financial related law classes as possible, so I am equipped to practice in that sector after school. After graduation, I hope to find a job practicing tax law, either state and local tax or federal tax,” he added.
On Oct. 7, a one-day pro bono clinic will take place at the law school from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. where people with cases pending in U.S. Tax Court can come to seek legal help from students and supervising attorneys. A volunteer and students will explain the rules and procedures of U.S. Tax Court, review documents and discuss case issues and options with clients. Students can help the taxpayer/petitioner either work toward a settlement of his or her case or help prepare the case for trial.
On Oct. 24, the U.S. Tax Court will hold hearings in Courtroom 369 at the United States Bankruptcy Court, Frank E. Moss U.S. Courthouse, 350 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Questions about the program and upcoming October events may be directed to the tax clinic at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-587-2439.