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Spring 2024 Clinic

Tax Litigation Clinic

To learn more about the Clinical Curriculum and Registration, please visit our Clinical Registration Center.
You can also find more information on How to Register for Clinics and How Clinical Credits Work.

For more information about this clinic, please visit the Clinic Website, Clinic Q&A and OCP Blog Highlights.

Enrollment in this clinic will fulfill the HLS JD pro bono requirement.

Required Class Component: Tax Litigation Clinical Seminar (2 spring classroom credits). This clinic and course are bundled – your enrollment in this clinic will automatically enroll you in the required course.

Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.

By Permission: No.

Add/Drop Deadline: December 8, 2023.

LLM Students: LLM students may enroll in this clinic through Helios.

Placement Site: WilmerHale Legal Services Center (Jamaica Plain).

The Tax Litigation Clinic represents low income taxpayers who have a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service or the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. This includes representing taxpayers in administrative processes within those agencies as well as litigating in the United States Tax Court, and various United States District and Circuit courts. The Clinic receives clients through various referral programs, including from domestic violence organizations, wrongful conviction projects, veterans’ groups, and various other service providers. In addition to representing clients from Massachusetts, the Clinic takes clients from around the country to litigate issue of broad impact to the low income taxpayer community. It also comments on regulations and other types of rule-making that will impact this community.

Much of the clinic practice centers on using administrative processes at the IRS to resolve taxpayer issues. Clinic students may deal with IRS revenue agents, revenue officers, Appeals Officers, automated call site collection operators and correspondence auditors. Students represent cases in a variety of administrative postures, such as audit reconsiderations and innocent spouse cases to relieve a client of liability and collections matters to protect low income clients from wage garnishment or asset seizure. Students thus gain significant experience in dealing with an executive agency. No matter which segment of the administrative agency we encounter, the Clinic provides a voice for the client in a process that can otherwise prove baffling. All students in this clinic gain significant direct client experience. Each student usually starts with 4-5 clients representing a variety the Clinic cases. The student has primary responsibility for the case and works directly with the client. The supervisors in the Clinic assist and guide the students as they work with their clients.

Because Congress uses the Internal Revenue Code to deliver benefits through provisions such as the earned income tax credit and the advanced child tax credit, low income clients often have a serious financial interest in their tax disputes. The benefit payments sometimes equal half of a taxpayer’s annual income. Represented clients have a much higher statistical chance of prevailing and thus avoiding deep poverty. The Clinic represents clients so that they can retain these benefits in circumstances in which they might give up rather than contest their liability with the IRS. Additionally, the Clinic represents clients mired in debt. Each semester, the Clinic assists taxpayer in settling their tax debts with the IRS for a fraction of the amount owed and in some cases writing off hundreds of thousands of dollars. These outcomes can be life changing for some clients.

The Clinic also gives students the opportunity to work on matters of broader impact in the low income taxpayer community. The Clinic regularly argues cases in the United States Circuit Courts. The Clinic also files amicus briefs in various Circuit Courts and, occasionally, in the Supreme Court.

The seminar component of the Clinic seeks to complement the experience of working directly with the clients. Students discuss case simulations, problems, and IRS forms in the seminar in order to prepare and reinforce the skills needed for client representation. The seminar also serves as a place for the students in the class to discuss their cases with fellow classmates and work together to figure out the best way to approach difficult case problems.