This month, the IRS Counsel’s office significantly expanded its efforts to conduct pro bono settlement days to a national effort by declaring March as Pro Bono Settlement Month.
The Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic has been hosting settlement days for several years, but this semester the clinic hosted an extended Pro Bono Week to more conveniently meet the needs of clients and assist in the national effort initiated by the IRS Counsel’s Office.
The clinic hosted the event the week of March 8th, with the goal of settling cases for clients with IRS attorneys to avoid having to continue to Tax Court. All appointments were held virtually. Emily Yaun, supervising attorney with the clinic, said in-person pro bono days allow for easier participation from students but hosting the event virtual does have some advantages.
“When it’s offered throughout the week, taxpayers have more options to schedule a time that is convenient for them,” Yaun said. “I also think it’s easier to have more virtual settlements throughout the year.”
Something that’s not lost in hosting the event virtually is the fast-paced nature that allows students to learn quickly. Sometimes the IRS will forward documentation ahead of time for the students to prepare, but often students are joining the meeting with no background on the issue.
“During the meeting, you are the advocate for the client,” said Sally Nicholas. “This means ensuring the client understands the matter at issue, and that they are aware of all of the options the IRS has presented to them, as well as any other options that may be available to them.”
This was also the first time that the Tax Clinic was able to expand its scope to help taxpayers outside of Georgia. The clinic was able to take some referrals from the Birmingham, Alabama IRS Counsel’s Office as well.
“The week was extraordinarily successful, and I imagine that it will lead to further expansion of these efforts in the future, and the clinic looks forward to being part of this future expansion,” clinic director Ted Afield said.
Written by Mara Thompson