Low-Income Student Freed from Tax Liability with Legal Clinics Help

“With the help of several of our legal interns and Law Clerk Kristen Anderson, another low-income taxpayer can now sleep better at night knowing that his upcoming case in U.S. Tax Court has been successfully resolved completely in his favor,” comments Federal Tax Clinic Supervising Attorney Richard Carpenter. The Federal Tax Clinic has had a series of recent successes; our most recent helped a college student with a part-time delivery business to be released from tax liabilities that he’d be unable to resolve on his own.


Photo credit: 401kcalculator.org, Creative Commons License.


“The taxpayer had two outstanding issues with the IRS,” explains Law Clerk Kristen Anderson. “One was from 2011 and the other from 2012. His 2011 tax return was audited due to a large amount of business miles he claimed, and on his 2012 return, the IRS questioned education expenses he’d claimed on his tax return.”

During both years, the taxpayer was taking classes at a local college and working part time delivering frozen meat. He attempted to resolve the first issue directly with the IRS, by filing a petition with the Tax Court. Although he provided invoices from each of his deliveries, as well as a hand-written mile log, the IRS rejected his appeal on the grounds that it was not legible.

“When the taxpayer first came to us, one of our legal interns helped him to type up the mileage log, addressing the issue of legibility,” describes Anderson. “But even after the IRS received the typed log, the IRS began to ask questions about his relationship with the supplier, as well as questioning the accuracy and validity of the miles claimed.”

A legal intern, Nathan Kiyam, began working with the taxpayer on this issue, helping him provide the IRS with the needed information. With support from the Legal Clinics’ staff and faculty, Kiyam helped the taxpayer verify to the IRS that he owned his truck, and didn’t have a contract with the supplier. “Faculty and law clerks gave great support and feedback during the process,” he observes of the experience. “I was able to work independently while receiving a great amount of resources and feedback. They also were always available for any inquiries, either during office hours or via email.”

After receiving this information, the IRS Appeals office still rejected the appeal and forwarded the taxpayer’s case to IRS counsel for trial preparation. “The taxpayer came back to the Federal Tax Clinic, clearly discouraged and concerned about not being able to prove his case to the IRS,” comments Anderson. By this time, a new legal intern, Christine Gilbert, was assigned to the case and she worked with the IRS counsel office to try and settle the matter.

“The court date was set for September 28, 2015, and the trial counsel contacted the taxpayer to meet with him prior to the trial on August 24, 2015,” describes Anderson. “I went with the taxpayer to the meeting and we were able to explain the nature of the taxpayer’s relationship with the supplier. We convinced counsel that the taxpayer was not actually working for the supplier and we also corroborated each gas purchase as well as distance travelled. The taxpayer and I were both really relieved and happy when trial counsel conceded the case.”

In addition to this most recent success, the taxpayer also was able to prove that the education expenses he claimed on his 2012 tax return were valid. After petitioning the Tax Court, legal intern Kiyam helped the client provide the IRS with receipts showing the taxpayer’s book expenses. After receiving receipts that proved the taxpayer had been enrolled in school during 2012, the IRS also conceded the case, allowing the expenses and removing the taxpayer’s liability.

“The process helped me apply my law school education in settlement, negotiations, and communicating legal scenarios to clients,” reflects Kiyam of his legal intern experience in the Federal Tax Clinic. “The process also helped me understand how to gather information about clients and their interests to achieve their intended outcome whether it would be to settle, negotiate, or further the suit.”

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