Federal Tax Clinic Success Story Enables Client to Take Her Family to Disneyland!

“About four weeks after I submitted the package, the IRS Appeals Officer emailed me to say he was conceding the government’s case. Guess who’s going to Disneyland!?” exclaimed Federal Tax Clinic Legal Intern David Romberger when he learned of a client’s long and hard won IRS appeal.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Photo by Keithj via Flickr Creative Commons.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Photo by Keithj via Flickr Creative Commons.

Romberger was one of several Legal Interns who worked with the taxpayer on the lengthy IRS appeal process that began in 2011. Under the supervision of Professor Richard Carpenter, and with the assistance of Law Clerk Kristen Anderson, several USD law school students working as Legal Interns in the Federal Tax Clinic were able to help the taxpayer justly resolve her appeal with the IRS.

In 2011, the taxpayer was denied the ability to claim her niece and her niece’s two children on her income tax return, even though all three were legitimate dependents. The IRS removed her Earned Income Tax Credit and charged her with a liability of $3,500, even though she was the sole income earner in the house and supported all three individuals entirely.

A low-income San Diego resident, with English as her second language, the taxpayer turned to the USD Legal Clinics to assist with filing an appeal. “The clinic collected school records and medical letters from [the taxpayer] showing that the children resided at her home to prove that she rightfully claimed them,” describes Law Clerk, Kristen Anderson. “These documents were submitted to the IRS on 7/1/13 for an audit reconsideration.”

After several months of processing the appeal, the IRS denied the audit reconsideration in May 2014 because it claimed the taxpayer’s niece was over the age of 19, making more than $3,700 per year and that she claimed the children. All of these statements were untrue. At the urging of the Federal Tax Clinic, the taxpayer’s case was assigned to a different IRS representative who requested additional documentation to prove dependency.

Even though the taxpayer filed the necessary documentation, her appeal was again denied, and she received a Notice of Deficiency in November 2014. The taxpayer was given until January 2015 to file a petition with the Tax Court. By this time, Legal Intern Natalia Nyczak was assigned the case and filed the petition with the Tax Court in the Spring semester of 2015.

“It was Natalia’s first experience with tax law and she jumped into the thick of it,” comments Anderson. “Professor Carpenter helped her with the petition drafting and she turned it around extremely quickly, filing it the next day.” Two months after filing the petition, an IRS Appeals Officer contacted the Legal Clinics to try to settle the case before going to court. Legal Intern David Romberger took over at the start of the new semester.

“When the new semester began, David had to jump right in and get all the necessary documents prepared and organized for the Appeals Officer,” comments Anderson. “He did a great job putting everything together and was able to submit it to the Appeals Officer before the deadline.”

“By the time I took over the case in June, the IRS had already assigned an appeals agent to make a determination,” adds Romberger. “I reviewed and organized a very large case file, and some of the needed documents were even in Spanish. I used one of the clinic’s interpreters, Jesse Vassallo, a USD Law LLM alumni, to translate copies of those documents into English.” Romberger developed a short outline for the facts in the documents he attached to the appeal. Annotating each document and referencing them in the outline, he also placed arrows by each relevant fact along with a short comment explaining the connection.

“I think the package easily illuminated a high degree of substantiating facts in support of the taxpayer’s appeal,” comments Romberger. “In the end I think the IRS agent wanted me to develop and clearly lay out the story in support of our case, which is fair. I suppose that’s what attorneys do a lot of the time so it gave me an excellent opportunity to practice these skills.”

“The taxpayer told me she was willing to give it one last try to get back her refund for claiming her dependents,” reflects Romberger. “She also told me that she’d been telling the kids ever since this matter started that if she got her refund back, she would use some of the money to take them to Disneyland.” Professor Carpenter was delighted with the final result. He stated, “after nearly four years, and a lot of hard work by our clinic students, the case finally had a magical conclusion for the client and her children.”

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