New Tax Chat! Video Available & an Update on the International Conference on Taxpayer Rights
We’re pleased to announce the January Tax Chat! video, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics: An International Movement, has been uploaded to YouTube.
Our guests for this video are tax clinicians from Australia, England, Ireland and the United States:
- Keith Fogg, Federal Tax Clinic, Harvard Law School, United States
- David Massey and Amy Lawton, North West Tax Clinic, University of Lancaster, United Kingdom
- Annette Morgan and Donovan Castelyn, Curtin Tax Clinic, Curtin University, Australia
- Emer Mulligan, Student Tax Clinic, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
- David Sams, Executive Director, The Community Tax Law Project, United States
Since its inception in the US in the 1970s as part of clinical education in law schools, the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) movement expanded with the enactment of Internal Revenue Code § 7526 in 1998. Today, there are about 135 federally-funded LITCs throughout the US, not only in academic, but also as free-standing nonprofits, and as part of legal aid societies and community organizations. You can find more information about U.S. federally-funded LITCs here. The federal LITC grant program now awards $13 million annually in matching funds.
In the last few years, the tax clinic movement has been adopted internationally, first in Australia, followed by England and Ireland. Each of these programs have a slightly different organizational focus and structure, but they all have one element in common with the US program – an underlying philosophy of access to justice – both for individual taxpayers on a case-by-basis and through systemic advocacy.
In our video, we review the different structure of clinics, the types of taxpayers they serve, the services they offer, their scope of activity (geographic) and their eligibility requirements. We cover the challenges of starting a clinic, including funding, relations with the tax agency, the private bar, and the courts; identifying community organizations as partners and building a network; and, for academic clinics, making the case for clinical education. Tax systems are very much a creature of the country’s culture. We discuss how those differences are reflected in the focus and structure of each clinical program, notwithstanding their common underlying commitment to access to justice and taxpayer rights.
We also discuss issues that arise as clinics grow beyond the start-up phase, including expanding the reach of the clinic through maintaining a pro bono panel of attorneys and other tax professionals. Finally, we explore systemic advocacy via appellate litigation, filing amicus briefs, and commenting on regulations that affect the low income and unrepresented taxpayer populations; we also discuss special initiatives, including tax issues for exonerees, incarcerated persons, and survivors of domestic violence. And finally, finally, we chat about next steps – what would the clinics like to do over the next few years?
This was a fascinating conversation, and we plan to continue it each year by holding a half-day LITC workshop in conjunction with the International Conference on Taxpayer Rights.
For additional readings about Low income Taxpayer Clinics, see:
Keith Fogg, History of Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, Tax Lawyer, Vol. 67, No. 1 (2013)
Keith Fogg, Every Taxpayer Counts: Nina Olson’s Impact on Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics, Pittsburgh Tax Review, Forthcoming (2021)
Annette Morgan, A Report on Australia’s National Tax Clinic Program, Taxpayer Rights Digest (Feb. 15, 2020).
An Update on the 5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights
Speaking of the International Conference, we will be holding the 5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights on May 27th through 29th, 2021. Our host is the Law School of the National and Kapodostrian University of Athens. Regrettably, the May conference will be held entirely online – we just don’t know what course the pandemic will take, so it seemed safer to proceed in this manner. The upside is we can reach many more people this way, and offer very affordable registration fees. We will be publishing the agenda within the next two weeks, and registration will open in early March. So …. Stay tuned!
And we are still planning on holding the 6th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in October 2021.
Thanks as always for all your interest and support. I think you will find the Tax Chat! on LITCs very interesting, and we welcome suggestions for future Tax Chat! topics.
All the best,
Nina E. Olson
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