School of Law to Launch New Clinic to Assist Low-income Taxpayers

Lexington, VA Thursday, October 04, 2007

Beginning in January 2008, a new clinic serving low-income taxpayers will begin operations at the Washington and Lee University School of Law. Directed by visiting clinical professor Michelle Drumbl, clinic students will represent low-income taxpayers in resolving their controversies with the Internal Revenue Service, provide 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.

The Tax Clinic, like the School of Law's other existing clinics, is intended to help students make the transition from school to law practice.  In its first semester of operation, the clinic will enroll up to five students; it will expand to a year-long clinic with a larger enrollment for the 2008-09 academic year. The Tax Clinic will be distinct from, but synergized with, the School's existing Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, in which students prepare current year returns for individuals during tax season.

 "The Tax Clinic will serve as a dynamic forum for students to work with clients on real life tax problems, share their understanding of complex tax provisions with the local community, and engage with current legislative issues affecting those constituencies," says Drumbl. "I look forward to working with the inaugural group of students next semester.

The clinic will serve Lexington and several surrounding counties and cities in the Shenandoah Valley.  Controversy resolution work will include representation of taxpayer clients who have post-filing legal problems with the IRS such as audits, administrative appeals, and collections.  The ESL (English as a Second Language) outreach work will involve an instructional component in which students will have the opportunity to organize and present selected tax topics of interest to the immigrant community, in partnership with community groups.

In addition, the Tax Clinic will include a policy advocacy element.  Its students will examine legislation to consider the potential impact on low-income taxpayers; after discussion and analysis, the students will compose and submit written comments to the Treasury Department and the IRS.

The Tax Clinic joins a group of unique clinical offerings at the School of Law, including the Black Lung Clinic, which assists coal miners and their survivors who are pursuing federal black lung benefits; the Community Legal Practice Clinic, which serves victims of domestic violence and elders in the Rockbridge community; and the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, which provides free services to defense attorneys who represent capital murder defendants in cases throughout Virginia.

More information about clinics at the School of Law

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