Welcome to the Pro Bono and Tax Clinics Committee webpage. This committee carries out a number of functions in an effort to assist low-income taxpayers and start up/small exempt organizations.
The history of this committee can be traced to 1976 when the Tax Section first created a formal committee to focus on the needs of low-income taxpayers. At that time the focus of the committee was on assisting section members in connecting with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) which was a relatively new initiative of the IRS. Almost four decades later, the committee still has a strong commitment to VITA with a particular interest in promoting the Tax Section's goal to assist with military VITA programs.
In addition to promoting pro bono assistance through VITA programs, this committee seeks to address the tax liability and collection issues that impact low-income taxpayers. One of the initiatives of the committee with respect to low-income taxpayer representation concerns pro se taxpayers who petition the United States Tax Court. The committee, under past Chairs Andy Roberson, Keith Fogg, and George Willis, worked with clinics and local bar groups to ensure that a local member of the tax bar or a tax clinic are available at calendar calls in every city where the court sits to assists unrepresented taxpayers.
Another recent initiative is the Adopt-a-Base program. The Tax Section is partnering with the military and the IRS to help train service members become volunteer return preparers through VITA. Many military installations use VITA so members of the armed forces and their families have access to free tax preparation services.
Under immediate past Chair Andy Roberson the committee undertook a new initiative, Partnering for Pro Bono. Through this initiative, the Tax Section connects nonprofit low-income taxpayer clinics with law firms who provide assistance through direct representation of low-income taxpayers, or through research support, mentorship, and advice.
In addition to these specific initiatives, the committee sponsors programs and workshops that educate low-income taxpayer representatives and public officials on issues impacting low-income taxpayers, including the impact of Internal Revenue Service and Department of Treasury guidance.
The committee seeks to influence legislation, regulations and other guidance on issues impacting low-income taxpayers and low-income taxpayer representatives. Past leaders of this committee were influential in changing laws that impact low-income tax payers and in obtaining grant money to fund clinics to represent low-income taxpayers. Unlike many taxpayers, low-income taxpayers do not have lobbyists to carry their concerns forward with Congress or the Internal Revenue Service. This committee takes its responsibility seriously to insure that these taxpayers not only receive representation on individual cases but have a voice in the making of policy.
Assisting organizations seeking to obtain tax exempt status and to retain that status is another goal of the committee. Our committee coordinates with the Exempt Committee in an effort to assist organizations seeking tax exempt status as well as to provide advice to small existing tax exempt organizations. By their nature many start up and small exempt organizations lack funds to obtain necessary legal assistance in dealing with the process. The work of the committee enables organizations doing significant work in local communities to come into existence and to flourish.
In order to effectively carry out our committee's goals, it is necessary for many people to volunteer to work on committee programs and projects. The committee leaders are listed on this page. If you see an issue impacting low-income taxpayers that needs to be addressed, please contact one of the committee leaders. We would also welcome your assistance in being the voice of this underrepresented segment of our population. For more information regarding current programs visit the Pro Bono Opportunities webpage.
The other committee leaders and I look forward to seeing you at Tax Section's meetings and to talking to you individually or on the low-income taxpayer listserv sponsored by the ABA.
Christine Speidel, Chair