School of Law Students Represent Everyday Taxpayers
Students are giving back to the community.
Written by Lori Cortez
Texas Tech law school offers a low-income tax clinic that allows second- and third-year law students to represent clients in real-life situations.
Many low-income families can’t make ends meet from month to month, let alone keep straight the taxes they may owe on that income. Texas Tech’s School of Law offers a low-income tax clinic that allows second- and third-year law students to represent clients in real-life situations.
With accompanying supervision the students are allowed to speak directly to the IRS on behalf of their clients.
Alongside Texas Tech professor and clinical director Vaughn James, students provide assistance to residents in the West Texas panhandle and Eastern New Mexico areas who are unable to obtain professional tax counsel. The clinic maintains areas involving disputes with the IRS including, but not limited to, dependency issues, IRS audit appeals and IRS collection notices.
Beginning in 2001, the tax clinic received a grant from the IRS to provide legal help to taxpayers with incomes equal to or less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Therefore, based on the 2009 figures, the tax clinic could advise a family of four earning $55,125 or less. Also included in the guidelines is a 10 percent leeway for exceptions, giving the tax clinic freedom to accept others who just miss the requirement.
Lesley Washington, outreach coordinator for the tax clinic, said the opportunity to work on real cases is extremely beneficial for law students. She also said the students are developing related lawyer skills that they will use for their future.
“It’s the real life experience for students, and this is essentially like a little law firm. The clients come and have their meetings, and the students do everything they would do if they were out practicing on their own,” Washington said. “These are real clients, not actors, with real problems.”
Moreover, the tax clinic is hoping to increase educational outreach and also create awareness that the clinic accepts individuals who speak English as their second language.
“In addition to taking clients we are going out into the community and presenting preventive measures,” Washington said. “Things like ‘you should be looking to file this form at this time’ sort of measures.”
To schedule an appointment contact the clinical programs office at (806) 742-4312. The office hours are Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Texas Tech School of Law
The Texas Tech School of Law is a leader among Texas law schools with a 16-year average pass rate of 90 percent on the State Bar Exam.
A small student body, a diverse faculty and a low student-faculty ratio (15.3:1) promotes learning and encourages interaction between students and professors.