It’s (A)Live! LITC Connect Is Up And Running (Sort Of!)

After nine months of gestation, the Center for Taxpayer Rights has a new offspring … the LITC Support Center.  Today, the Support Center’s website is live, including the “dating app” for LITCs and prospective volunteers, LITC Connect.  Yay!  And a huge sigh of relief.

To recap:  since the days when I was the executive director of The Community Tax Law Project, it’s been clear the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic community, including its volunteers, have needed a resource center to provide technical support, litigation strategy, research, and systemic advocacy.  The Center started providing this support throughout the pandemic, hosting weekly Litigation Strategy calls with LITCs, assisting in several of the Economic Impact Payment lawsuits, and submitting amicus briefs on issues affecting low income taxpayers, as discussed here and here and here.

Through individual donors’ support, we have been able to raise the funds for development and programming of our new website and, most importantly, LITC Connect.  I’ve written about LITC Connect last month, but now it is a reality. It’s not as elegant design-wise as I want it to be, but now that the site is up, I will be able to work on the actual design.  What’s important is, the skeleton has some flesh on it!  YAY!  (I know, I’m using mixed metaphors here, but give me a break.)

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Through LITC Connect, LITCs are now able to create a profile and submit “Assistance Requests” when they need volunteer assistance.  The most common requests will be for volunteer pro bono representation of a client; however, LITCs can also request volunteers for mentors, technical advice, outreach and education assistance, and developing training materials or conducting training.

Prospective volunteers can also create profiles, describing the volunteer work they would like to do.  They can not only select the types of services they would like to provide (e.g., representation, training, mentoring) but they can also select the types of representation (e.g., audit, appeals, litigation, collection) and the types of issues (e.g, EITC audits, nonfilers, offer in compromise, collection due process).  Volunteers can also indicate the issues on which they would like additional training before they accept case referrals in that area.

Once an LITC submits an Assistance Request, LITC Connect’s algorithm chugs along and matches the request with the most promising volunteer candidates, based on their profiles.  The Center will then review the information and reach out to the best candidate personally, through email, and hopefully make the match and referral to the LITC.  Voila!

Now, a word of caution.  The website and algorithm are in their first iteration.  We’ve tested and tested, but I’m sure we will find things that are ungainly and need to be improved.  We’ve already identified two improvements that we’re contracting with the programmers to complete in the next few weeks that will make creating a profile easier (e.g., using checkboxes next to lists of issues rather than a drop down you have to scroll through and use key combinations to select multiple items).  We want to know how this is working, and we really want to hear from you.  You can write us at litc@taxpayer-rights.org.

We also have a lot of content we need to add to the site.  We are in the process for creating pages for training videos, materials, and templates for filings/government submissions, as well as links to other resources and pages for our FOIA requests and IRS responses.  We are creating materials for VITA sites and taxpayers about problems they may encounter during this upcoming filing season (a lot of them) and what they can do via self-help and when they need to reach out to an LITC for assistance.  And, in conjunction with the ABA Tax Section, in February 2022 we will be doing a training for volunteers about representing survivors of domestic violence.  The recording of this training, along with others, will be posted on the LITC Support Center website.

So.  What do we need from you?

First, LITCs need to sign up and create a password-protected profile.  Please do this now, for two reasons:  (1) so we can learn from your experience setting up your profile and improve the process; and (2) so you are ready to submit an Assistance Request when the urgent need arises.  We’re not yet accepting referrals, but you need to be in the system so when we do so, you are ready!

Second, volunteers need to sign up and create a password-protected profile.  Attorneys, certified public accountants, and enrolled agents are all eligible to be a volunteer.  In creating a profile, we ask a number of questions; we’ve tried to make it as simple as possible, but the information we ask is necessary to get the best matches and improve the algorithm.  We really need you to sign up so we have a volunteer pool for when the millions of math error notices and frozen returns attributable to reconciliation of the Rebate Recovery Credit and the Child Tax Credit start surfacing this filing season.  And we need you in the system so we can offer you free training on this specific issue.  For those of you who are retired, all of the LITCs registered with us will have professional liability coverage for their volunteers (that is one of our LITC profile questions).  The LITC Support Center is also obtaining professional liability coverage for those cases that it retains for representation.

Third, please consider making a contribution to support the work of the LITC Support Center.  Now that we have the first stage of our app built, we need to hire a Pro Bono Coordinator.  Although the app will identify good potential matches, we want the human touch in making the final decision and by staying in touch with both the LITC and the volunteer to ensure the referral is going smoothy.  So please help us help us by donating to the Center for Taxpayer Rights.

The LITC Support Center has been germinating since 1992; today, the seedling has popped above the surface.  I look forward to watching it grow.  (End of metaphors.)  Thank you, to everyone who has worked for and supported LITCs over the years.