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School of Law's Newest Clinic
To Help Low-Income Taxpayers
August 30, 1999

A letter from the Internal Revenue Service can be downright unnerving for even the strongest person. To someone who doesn't have the resources to hire a tax attorney or doesn't understand his or her rights, a dispute with the IRS can be even more intimidating.

Now low-income taxpayers have a place to turn for help. The University of Connecticut School of Law has recently opened a clinic for low-income taxpayers in disputes with the IRS, with a start-up grant of more than $26,000 from the IRS. The law school anticipates receiving a further $99,000 from the IRS for the fiscal year beginning October 1, and will match all federal funds the clinic receives.

"This grant will allow us to provide an important public service while deepening students' legal education," says Jon Bauer, director of civil clinical programs at the law school.

The tax clinic anticipates handling audits, appeals, Tax Court litigation and collection cases.

It is expected to attract clients from the Hartford area, eastern Connecticut and portions of Massachusetts, where taxpayers previously had nowhere to turn for assistance. Legal service programs that serve low-income clients typically don't provide tax assistance, Bauer says. Instead, they refer clients with tax problems to private attorneys with mixed success, he says.

Six students enrolled in a two-semester clinic course will staff the new clinic, along with Diana Leyden, assistant clinical professor of law and director of the clinic, Bauer, and several members of the law school's tax faculty. As with the law school's other clinics, students will represent clients, and participate in weekly seminars, skills exercises and supervision sessions. The students must be in their second or third year of law school and have already completed a course in federal income taxation.

The law school was among 30 organizations that received a grant under a new law enacted by Congress and President Bill Clinton as part of a restructuring of the IRS. The law authorizes the IRS to award grants of up to $100,000 per year for a three-year period to develop, expand or continue clinics that provide legal representation to low-income people in disputes with the IRS or provide information or assistance to non-English speaking taxpayers.

"We share Congress's hope that this initial investment of federal funds will engender private contributions to provide a long-term source of funding for this important pairing of taxpayer service and professional training," says Jeremy Paul, associate dean for academic affairs.

UConn is one of just two grant recipients in Connecticut. The other, Quinnipiac College's School of Law in Hamden, will use its grant to expand an already-existing tax clinic.

UConn's tax clinic will be the fifth in the School of Law's legal clinic program, which serves low- and moderate-income clients with its civil rights, criminal, mediation and poverty law clinics.

Allison Thompson