It is daunting and often impossible for our clients to face the intricacies of the tax code on their own, so our student attorneys help to educate individuals and advocate on their behalf before the IRS or the United States Tax Court.
In the process of securing the best possible result for their clients, LITC student attorneys interview clients, gather and analyze relevant information, perform legal research, provide advice, and negotiate with IRS agents. They also work with the students in the transactional clinics (Entrepreneurship, International Transactions, and Community and Economic Development) to provide tax advice relating to those clinics' corporate work. Representing clients on a variety of issues, such as tax collection disputes, audits, IRS notices, Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility, and innocent spouse relief, student attorneys build vital interpersonal, legal writing, and critical thinking skills.
Moreover, the intimate size of the clinic—six students, one supervising attorney, and one administrator—allows students to encounter a unique mentorship experience, as well as cultivate the independence and confidence to provide excellent legal service for each specific case.
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Who Should Apply?
Those interested in the compelling intersection of tax, poverty, domestic violence, disability, and immigration legal services should consider the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. As the clinic grows, students may also have the opportunity for transactional tax work and business development.
How do I enroll?
Second- and third-year law students may register for the four-credit clinic using the Law School's computerized registration system. Though there are no formal prerequisites for the course, it is useful to have taken Taxation of Individual Income and/or courses in estate planning, such as Tax Planning for Real Estate Transactions, Nuts and Bolts of Estate Planning, and Fundamentals of Real Estate. Those interested in the clinic's growing corporate component may consider taking Corporate Tax and Taxation of Business Enterprises.
How is the clinic graded?
First-semester students receive four credits for the clinic and are graded. Students who choose to continue and are accepted for a second semester receive three credits and are graded. Students are required to work eight office hours each week.
"My experience with the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic was very positive. Through the clinic, I learned a lot about tax as a substantive area of law, including issues related to transportation expenses, dependents, penalty abatement, collections, IRA distributions, homestead credits, and organizational tax planning. More importantly, though, I developed skills important to future practice. In resolving clients issues, I conducted legal research using a wide variety of sources, from cases to statutes to publications. Additionally, repeated interactions with clients and with IRS representatives improved my communication skills. The LITC also gave me the opportunity to work with numbers again as I prepared budgets and tax returns. Developing positive relationships with clients and seeing how my work benefited them was very rewarding. Through this experience, I gained a new perspective of our tax system and how it impacts people from different walks of life." —Karen Boore, '12, Associate, Real Estate Group, Miller Canfield
Prior to beginning client work, I thought the clinic would be a great opportunity to learn more about tax law, obtain some valuable working experience, and help taxpayers in the process. While I have achieved all of those goals, the process of getting there was much more rewarding than I would have imagined. Even the small things, such as smoothly interviewing a client or counselling a client in a legal matter, brought me a sense of accomplishment and pride. Working with my clients has given me perspectives and skills that I will be able to bring into both my career and personal life. —Jessie Chen, '15
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic was an incredibly rewarding experience. It was an opportunity to explore an entirely new area of law, while at the same time representing real-life clients with very real issues. It enabled me learn while making a noticeable impact in my clients' everyday lives. As a result of my clinical work, I am now genuinely interested in practicing tax law and plan to enroll in tax courses during the remainder of my time at Michigan. I would highly recommend the clinic to anyone who is even remotely interested in tax. A wonderful experience! —Alen Cisija, 2L
LITC provides fantastic opportunities to work closely and independently with clients, while dealing with tax issues—both simple and complex. Plus you might get a cool sweatshirt, go bowling and to tax court, and become great buddies with the IRS automated phone system! —Avi Emanuel, 3L
An immersive clinical experience, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic offers training in a substantive area of the law, the reward of a truly practical experience, the opportunity to work with significant independence, and the benefit of working under an expert mentor who cares deeply for the total well-being of her student attorneys. —Zachary Fichtenbaum, 3L
"The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic is challenging, rewarding, and was one of my best experiences during law school. The clinic's professor, Nicole Appleberry, patiently assists students as they learn the ins and outs of the IRS and other government agencies. During my three semesters in the clinic, I was able to finally put down the books and interact with those in the community who needed our help. The cases range from individuals who have fallen ill or had an accident and therefore are not able to prepare and file their taxes on time, to those that have grievous errors in their taxes, leading to past due payments in the tens of thousands. Largely due to my experience in this clinic, when I graduated, I felt well prepared to meet the challenge ahead of me as I began my legal career as a litigator at a general practice firm." —Jessica G. Kingston, '10, Associate, Varnum LLP
"My work in the LITC gave me the tools I needed for my position in the tax controversy group of an international law firm. I learned how to research the tax code and the regulations, and had the opportunity to prepare memoranda on international and domestic tax issues for individuals, corporations, and partnerships. The clinic also trained me to discuss tax issues with clients and with other attorneys. This, in turn, gave me the communication skills and confidence necessary to land a job in tax litigation." —James Kelly, '12, Associate, Mayer Brown
Real clients, real money, real agency work. That's how I would describe my experience in the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. As a clinician, I was able to provide real help to individuals in need. I also mastered skills that will be useful in any administrative or regulatory practice, not just practice before the IRS. —Charles Ramsey, '15
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic gave me the opportunity to learn about areas of tax law such as cancellation of debt, mortgages, and collections. Also, in representing clients and interacting with IRS representatives, I gained important practical experience that will help me in my future career. Even better, I had the opportunity to help people who are in financial need and often unsure of whether or not they are going to meet their monthly expenses, let alone pay off their IRS debt. —Gita Subramaniam, 3L
My time in the LITC has been a true turning point in my law school career. I learned firsthand what it means to truly advocate on a client's behalf to a variety of different governmental agencies and organizations. Overall, the best part of my experience has been the level of gratitude expressed by clients who genuinely appreciate even the tiniest of progress made in his or her case. —Adrean Taylor, '15
My experience in the LITC has gone above and beyond my expectations. I was given the opportunity to work with my own clients and interact with these clients on a daily basis to build my confidence. I received the perfect amount of supervision. On the one hand, I could make all my own legal and professional decisions. On the other hand, I was given the opportunity to speak through these decisions with Professor Nicole Appleberry. She asked difficult questions and provided valuable insight to ensure that they were the right decisions to make. —Erin Whitney, '15
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