This Giving Tuesday, Please Support The Work Of The LITC Support Center

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Today Nina follows up on yesterday’s post discussing the work of the Center For Taxpayer Rights and the considerable accomplishments of the past three years. Today’s post highlights an exciting project, the LITC Support Center. The LITC Support Center fills a needed gap that will ensure greater access to justice for all taxpayers.  Please join me and my fellow board members Keith Fogg, Liz Atkinson, and Alice Abreu in supporting this project and become a charter sponsor. As Nina notes, the board will match up to $8,000 of donations received during the rest of 2022.  Les

As I discussed in yesterday’s post, 2022 was a banner year for the Center for Taxpayer Rights (CTR).  We received operational support from the Rockefeller and Schusterman Family Foundations and a significant grant from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to conduct a fascinating two-year study on Improving the IRS’s administration of refundable tax credits and other tax-code benefits for economically excluded populations (more about that in a later post).  Our amicus briefs have been influential in several truly significant decisions, including in Bittner v. U.S., where it was mentioned twice during oral arguments.  The International Conference on Taxpayer Rights continues to bring together administrators, professionals, and academics from around the world to discuss important issues affecting taxpayer rights.  The Reimagining Tax Administration workshops (here and here) have moved into the arena of state taxpayer rights, and we have launched a new Tax Chat! series on the Inflation Reduction Act and Transforming the IRS.  In a later post I will be sharing our plans for 2023, but with this post we are announcing a major fundraising campaign for the LITC Support Center, a project of the Center for Taxpayer Rights that is dedicated to supporting Low Income Taxpayer Clinics and increasing access to justice for low income taxpayers by connecting volunteers with Clinics and providing resources to Clinics.  You can give to the Support Center via CTR’s website here.


The LITC Support Center’s mission and activities

The LITC Support Center is designed to function as the national center for tax clinics and volunteers.  The Support Center’s role is similar to organizations such as the National Consumer Law Center.  That is, the Support Center provides technical support, training, and litigation strategy to Low Income Taxpayer Clinic personnel and volunteers.  The Support Center has developed and maintains LITC Connect, the “dating app” whereby LITCs and tax professionals nationwide who are willing to volunteer can be matched to provide needed assistance to low income taxpayers and LITCs.  The Support Center also focuses on impact litigation and contributes to CTR’s amicus curiae briefs in cases with broad impact for low income taxpayers or taxpayer rights in general. 

Anna Gooch, the ABA Tax Section Public Interest Fellow, is at the heart of the Support Center’s activities.  Anna developed and coordinated our survey of state tax practices and taxpayer rights and helped plan our Reimagining Tax Administration series on that topic; in 2023, she will be writing a final report with recommendations for best practices.   Anna also works on amicus briefs, drafts comments (see our recent comments on the Arkansas’ new Tax Appeals Commission), works with the ABA Tax Section on Tax Court Settlement Days (volunteers who sign up for LITC Connect will be covered by CTR’s professional liability policy), and identifies and develops training programs for clinicians and volunteers.  Anna recently coordinated the writing, preparation, and submission of CTR’s amicus brief in Thomas v. Commissioner, dealing with the administrative record rule of IRC § 6015(e)(7).

LITC Connect: the “dating app” for clinics and tax professional volunteers

The LITC Support Center is the home of LITC Connect, which CTR developed and beta-launched in 2022.  We really were in test mode, and this fall we started on the second phase of development, in which we are making improvements to the user features of the app as well as creating profiles for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and nonprofits in areas underserved (or unserved) by LITCs.  By getting referrals from VITA sites and entities such as tribal governments, we can expand access to representation for many low income taxpayers.  We’ll be launching this referral component in pilot mode during the 2023 filing season; if things go well, we will expand participation later in 2023.

In 2022, the Center hired Dulce Mascorro as our bilingual pro bono/training coordinator.  Among many other things, Dulce’s duties include recruiting volunteers nationwide to sign up for LITC Connect, as well as getting all of the federally-funded LITCs signed up to participate in LITC Connect.  In addition, after we made a FOIA request for the contact information for clinic directors and qualified tax experts, Dulce has been personally reaching out to the clinicians and encouraging them join our weekly Litigation Strategy calls.  As a result, we’ve added 36 clinicians to our weekly calls.  Dulce also signed up 36 additional LITCs to receive the in-kind donation of a Tax Notes subscription, bringing the total to 100 LITCs receiving this donation, amounting to over $200,000 annually in total matching funds for the LITCs.  (Thank you, Tax Analysts!!!) Not to rest on these successes, Dulce created a master list of 951 state, local, and law school bar associations, and 468 CPA and Enrolled Agent groups.  She has been working her way through the list, emailing them all and asking to speak with them about LITC Connect, offering to submit newsletter articles, etc.

Why the fundraising campaign for the LITC Support Center?

For next year, we need to raise $100,000 toward an additional staff attorney salary and further development of LITC Connect, to create an online repository of training programs and materials for clinicians and volunteers representing low income taxpayers.  The Support Center fills a unique role – it is independent of the LITC federal funding program.  The Support Center’s mission is to advocate on behalf of the clinics as well as low income taxpayers; we further access to representation of low income taxpayers by increasing pro bono opportunities nationwide.  Coordination of litigation strategy, development of training, undertaking amicus briefs, and high impact litigation are profoundly important and necessary activities, but they are difficult if not impossible for individual LITCs to undertake, given the press of day-to-day casework.  That is where the LITC Support Center fills the void.

The Board is challenging tax professionals and their firms to become charter sponsors in this effort.  The Board has pledged matching funds up to $8,000, and with the support of you and your firms, we can make the necessary software improvements to LITC Connect and support our small but powerful staff in 2023.  Your support also enables us to develop training materials and coordinate national litigation strategy at a time when case law in the area of taxpayer rights is developing rapidly.

We need tax professionals and tax firms to help us in this important work.  Won’t you please give today?  And if your firm is interested in becoming a charter sponsor of the LITC Support Center, please contact me or Dulce and we will be happy to give you more information.  And on behalf of CTR’s board of directors, to those of you who have given in the past, we are so grateful for your generous support.

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