In February, the Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic completed its second Pro Bono Settlement Day with the IRS in February, after successfully holding the first one in August.
During these Pro Bono Days, clinic faculty and students come together on a Saturday with the Internal Revenue Service Chief Counsel’s office in Atlanta and invite unrepresented taxpayers with upcoming court dates to come in and attempt to resolve their tax case.
These events have led to some overwhelmingly positive results — the August Pro Bono Day resulted in 26 unrepresented taxpayers obtaining assistance and the February Pro Bono Day saw 22 obtain assistance.
These numbers take tremendous pressure off the Tax Court and resulted in much better outcomes than would normally occur from the taxpayers showing up to their court date without representation.
“They had full buy-in from chief counsel,” said W. Edward Afield, director of the Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic. “They gave up their Saturday just like our students and our attorneys did.” The IRS also brought some of its law student externs.
The IRS attorneys even brought their own computers to the event held at the Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, which allowed for the fast creation of decision documents to settle cases on the spot, Afield said. While there was an initial challenge to making the clinic’s technology compatible with the IRS technology, the end results were effective, he said.
The clinic and the IRS made a point to survey the taxpayers about their experience, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. Given the success of these first two Pro Bono Days, the clinic and the IRS anticipate holding at least two of these events every year going forward.
Given the academic bent of the volunteer-side participation, the plan is to stick with two events per year, with one early in each semester, Afield said. “But if demand grows, we will try to do this as often as we can,” he added.