Written by Ken Abramczyk
For low-income families, tax season can be especially stressful, and that’s where the Georgia State Law’s Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic steps in. The clinic sponsors two IRS Pro Bono Days per year to help Georgia residents resolve federal tax disputes.
Last year the clinic settled 33 cases during the two-day event. The Pro Bono Days yield much-needed benefits and support to low-income taxpayers. Disputes often center on business deductions, retirement withdrawals or penalties.
“The settlements reached do not necessarily always result in the IRS completely accepting the taxpayer’s position,” said Ted Afield, clinical director and associate professor. “But, they do ensure that the taxpayer is only liable for what they legitimately owe under the tax laws. They only pay an amount that is reasonably affordable to them without taking care of their necessary living expenses.”
The Pro Bono Days are held before the tax court schedules disputes so petitioners can obtain advice and work toward a settlement outside of the court. A tax court typically starts with approximately 150 docketed cases, and Afield says that Pro Bono Day can remove 15 to 20 cases from the court’s calendar. Students in the clinic help with dispute resolutions and settlements in order to decrease the backlog.
“We make students take ownership of these cases,” Afield said. “We are here to guide them, but this method increases their knowledge and empowers critical thinking and problem-solving.”
The clinic and students look forward to supporting clients at the next IRS Pro Bono Day on October 5, 2019.