What a great way for people in the community to get some help and a great way for students to learn some practical lawyering skills.
I was amazed at the spectrum of issues our Tax Clinic clients faced. Within weeks of enrollment, I was applying a wide range of substantive and procedural tax law to my clients' needs. We worked on challenging cases.
The Tax Clinic is a pro bono (free) legal clinic that gives free legal help to low income taxpayers with tax problems--either with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS). Lisa Perkins, the director and an assistant clinical professor, and law students will work on your case. The Tax Clinic also works with attorneys in Connecticut who volunteer to help low income taxpayers pro bono.
The Tax Clinic is independent and separate from the IRS and DRS. All telephone conversations and in person meetings are confidential.
Contact us at:
University of Connecticut School of Law Tax Clinic
65 Elizabeth Street, Hartford, CT 06105
Phone: (860) 570-5165
Fax: (860) 570-5195
The Tax Clinic provides free legal representation for low income taxpayers who qualify. The Tax Clinic strives to meet its objectives of providing public service and judicial and administrative economy. The Tax Clinic helps low income taxpayers who need to file or have filed a petition with the United States Tax Court. To determine if you qualify for assistance from the Tax Clinic, click on "Services for the Public".
The Tax Clinic can help clients for whom English is a Second Language by arranging an interpreter or translator. Languages that the Tax Clinic generally supports are Spanish, French and Polish. Below are printable copies of these brochures:
For further help with tax return preparation or tax information visit the following links:
- Internal Revenue Service
- Taxpayer Advocate Service
- Connecticut Department of Revenue Service
- Connecticut Accounting and Aid Service, Inc. (free tax return preparation and accounting help)
- Connecticut Association for Human Services, Inc. (free tax return preparation and benefits information)
- Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative (help for tax exempt and non profit organizations)
- United States Tax Court
The Tax Clinic is a one semester clinical program that is offered to 6 students in both the fall and spring semesters. Students are awarded 6 credits for the program.
Four (4) credits are for casework and two(2) credits are for class work. The Tax Clinic is taught by Assistant Clinical Professor Lisa Perkins. Any second-, third- or fourth-year day or evening division student who has completed a JD federal income tax course may enroll in the Tax Clinic. The Tax Clinic consists of three components:
- Seminar: The class meets twice a week, each for 1.5 hours during which students are taught tax law and procedure and lawyering skills, and are introduced to guest speakers form the IRS, DRS, and area attorneys;
- Tutorial: One hour each week each two member team of students meet with the Director to discuss their cases; and
- Casework: Each student spends 15-20 hours each work working on cases, including 4 hours of office hours in the Legal Clinic suite, attending client or IRS/DRS conferences, or preparing for lawyering events. Each team of two students handles between 4 and 6 cases each semester.
Students who complete one semester of the Tax Clinic can register for Advanced Fieldwork. In the Advanced Tax Clinic students can continue with client representation or design a special program. Examples of programs that Advanced Tax Clinic students have worked on are:
- Designing and running workshops on tax related problems (e.g., credit repair, small business taxes) with community organizations;
- Preparing legislative testimony for regulation of Refund Anticipation Loans; and
- Working on a book showcasing the problems faced by the working poor when interacting with the IRS.
The Tax Clinic represents over 100 low income taxpayers every year.
Clients are provided high quality legal representation at three levels before the Internal Revenue Service and the Connecticut Department of Revenue Service.
- Audits: Students prepare for and represent clients in connection with audits of income tax returns.
- Appeals: Students represent clients with regards to the appeal of an adverse audit, the exercise of due process rights after the IRS first tries to collect a past tax by a levy or a lien or the denial of an offer in compromise, or the appeal of an adverse determination of the request for innocent spouse; and
- Collection: during the process of proposing an alternative payment plan or a compromise of tax liabilities.
The Tax Clinic also represents its clients in litigation. The Tax Clinic appears before the United States Tax Court with respect to litigation of tax matters, including adverse audit determinations or denials of collection alternatives and generally once a semester attends the United States Tax Court trial session in Hartford, CT. The Tax Clinic also represents clients before the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit with respect to refund actions and Freedom of Information litigation.
The Tax Clinic does not fill out tax returns or provide other accounting services. The Law School sponsors a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site that is operated in Hartford during the tax filing season. Students interested in enrolling in the Tax Clinic or in providing tax-related public service are encouraged to participate.
Students in the Tax Clinic receive special certification by the IRS that allows them to represent clients at all stages of the administrative practice. For clients who have problems related to an examination (audit) of a tax return, a student may correspond with a service center or local exams office and attend a conference with an IRS revenue agent. The Tax Clinic students have been very successful in resolving problems at this stage because they prepare thorough document submission and are well prepared in attending conferences. Working in teams, students use skills learned in the Tax Clinic to assist clients in securing enough credible documents to support claims made on returns or to understand when claims cannot be supported. Students also rehearse for conferences by engaging in moot conferences with the Director, Staff Attorney, other students or area practitioners to prepare for actual IRS conferences.
If a client seeks help in appealing an examination finding, a student may work to counsel the client on his or her rights to an appeal conference or other choices. If the client decides to appeal, the student will work with the client to prepare a written appeals protest and attend a conference with an IRS Appeals Officer. At this stage, the student may also have the opportunity to engage in negotiation and settlement conferences or the new Fast Track Mediation process.
If a client seeks help in determining how to pay off a past tax liability, a student may counsel a client as to payment or settlement options, assist the client in preparing financial statements, and attend a conference with an IRS revenue officer in connection with an offer to compromise a tax liability. (All of these same types of representation may occur at the state revenue department level as well.)
Finally, Tax Clinic students may represent taxpayers before the U.S. Tax Court. The Tax Clinic has a written agreement with the Tax Court that permits students, under the supervision of an attorney admitted to the Tax Court bar, to litigate before the court in small tax court matters or regular tax court matters which do not involve disputes exceeding $50,000. The U.S. Tax Court has generally held a trial session at least once a year in Hartford, Connecticut. Students who are involved in Tax Court matters may be involved in preparing petitions and other pleadings, negotiating settlements with IRS counsel, arguing motions, and conducting trials.
There are three major facets of the Tax Clinic program: casework, seminar meetings and tutorials. The casework, of course, is central. Students, working together in teams of two, typically spend between 15-20 hours a week working on their clients' cases. Each student team meets weekly with the Director or Staff Attorney for an in-depth discussion of the casework. These tutorials are used to help students recognize, analyze, and resolve the multitude of strategic, tactical, ethical and interpersonal issues that arise in representing clients. Through the casework, students gain training in lawyering skills including client interviewing, client counseling, negotiation and settlement, drafting legal memoranda and other legal documents, and keeping files.
The Tax Clinic seminar meets twice a week during the semester. Early in the semester, classes are used to survey the substantive federal tax and practice law involved in the clinic cases. Many classes are devoted to teaching essential lawyering skills. Classes also serve as a forum for case rounds in which students share and learn from each other's case experiences.
Tax Clinic students may also participate in role playing exercises designed to simulate the key aspects of lawyering process, including client interviewing and counseling, negotiating, investigation, examining witnesses, and making arguments. IRS revenue officers and Appeals Officers may run in class simulations or appear as guest lecturers. Area practitioners also appear as guest lecturers during the semester.
The Tax Clinic can help you with the following kinds of problems:
- I did not get my refund. If you filed a tax return and claimed certain deductions or credits, such as the Earned Income Credit, and the IRS or DRS has not paid you your refund, contact the Tax Clinic to see if we can help. You may also contact the local Taxpayer Advocate Service at (860) 594-9100.
- My tax return is being audited: The IRS or DRS has told you that they are reviewing your income tax return or they plan on making changes that increases the tax you owe, or reduces your refund.
- I have not filed past years tax returns: You have not filed tax returns for one or more years and need some help filing them and paying any taxes that may be owed. The Tax Clinic does not prepare tax returns but, if you qualify, we can refer you to an organization that may be able to prepare your returns for free or at low cost.
- I owe taxes: You have been getting bills from the IRS or DRS and want help in determining your payment options.
- I want to petition the Tax Court or I have filed a Tax Court petition: If you want to file a petition with the United States Tax Court or you have filed a petition on your own, we can represent you before the Tax Court. If you have a trial date, contact the Tax Clinic immediately to see if we can help.
- I overpaid taxes and want to claim a refund. You paid federal taxes but now believe you overpaid. We can represent you with a refund claim before the IRS and/or the United States District Court.
The Tax Clinic can help you with Connecticut (DRS) tax problems if you also have an IRS tax problem.
The Tax Clinic does not help people prepare and file returns. However, we can refer you to a pro bono (free) non-profit accounting organization, Community Accounting Aid & Services, Inc. or, if you need a tax return prepared during the regular filing season, we can direct you to a volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) site.
If owe taxes after you get a tax return prepared and filed, we can counsel you on your payment options. If you think you qualify for our assistance, please contact us.
Generally, your current annual income must meet certain guidelines (see below) and the amount of tax and penalties that the IRS or DRS says you owe for each year must not be more than $50,000.
To qualify for our services, you and your family's income must be at or below the following amounts:
Size of Family Income Not Greater than:
If your family size is more than eight (8) persons, add $10,800 for each additional member.
After you have met with someone from the Tax Clinic, the Director will review your case and decide in 7-10 days whether or not the Tax Clinic can help you. We will look at:
- The type of problems you have;
- The amount of time we think will be required to help you;
- Whether you are willing and able to help us with your case (such as getting documents and attending meetings); and
- Whether your case is something we have experience in handling.
We will notify you in writing whether we decide to represent you.
This is a very difficult question to answer. It depends on whether you have the papers necessary for us to understand your problem and to prove your case to the IRS. It also depends on how much help you can give us with your case. We will work very hard to research and investigate your problem in a timely manner, meet with you to discuss your options, and to represent you before the IRS or DRS in a timely manner.