The Tax Clinic at the Washington and Lee University School of Law has been awarded a matching grant from the Internal Revenue Service's Low Income Taxpayer grant program. The grant partially will fund the clinic for the 2008 calendar year and may cover as much as 50% of the cost of operating the clinic. The exact amount of the grant will not be known until Congress passes the Treasury appropriation bill for the 2008 fiscal year.
"This grant award is an important step towards the clinic's success. It will provide us financial support while linking us to an informal network of other low income taxpayer clinics" said Visiting Professor Michelle Drumbl, who directs the clinic.
The Tax Clinic, which has just enrolled its inaugural class of five students, will begin operations in spring 2008. (See related story) Clinic students will provide free legal representation to low-income taxpayers in resolving their controversies with the Internal Revenue Service, present educational outreach to individuals who speak English as a second language on their rights and responsibilities as U.S. taxpayers, and engage in tax and administrative policy advocacy.
At least 90% of the clients represented by the clinic will be "low-income", meaning their incomes do not exceed 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines published annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. Working with the University's English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program and bilingual student volunteers, the Clinic will be able to provide assistance as necessary in Spanish. The Clinic will also work with professional interpreters on an as-needed basis, particularly in the context of legal representation.
The Clinic's service area will stretch northeast from Lexington to the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro, southeast to the city of Lynchburg, and southwest to the cities of Roanoke and Salem. Included in this area will be a total of ten counties (Rockbridge, Bedford, Augusta, Nelson, Amherst, Botetourt, Alleghany, Bath, Roanoke, and Rockingham) and eleven independent cities (Lexington, Buena Vista, Covington, Roanoke, Staunton, Waynesboro, Bedford, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Clifton Forge, and Salem).
The IRS Low Income Taxpayer (LITC) grant program is administered by the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, which operates independently of any other IRS office and reports directly to Congress through the National Taxpayer Advocate. Likewise, clinics funded by the grant program remain completely independent of and are not associated with the federal government. The LITC grant program was created as part of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.