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Join the Annual PT Giving Tuesday Drive

Posted on Nov. 30, 2021

It’s that time of year for the annual Procedurally Taxing tradition (among other traditions such as April Fool’s, Taxatturkeys, etc.) in which we provide an update on the Center for Taxpayer Rights’ activities over the last year and ask that you support the Center’s work.  We know that PT readers are being bombarded with charitable solicitations for very worthy causes, but the Center’s work is directly on point for PT’s focus on procedural due process and taxpayer rights.  We hope you’ll read on to learn about the things we’ve been able to accomplish given folks’ past support of the Center and the exciting things planned for 2022  And of course, we hope all this will motivate you to donate to the Center this year.

As I’ve discussed here and here and here, 2021 brought renewed focus on the role of the tax system in administering social benefits.  The Center was privileged to receive a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to explore this topic.  As a result, we held an online workshop series this fall titled Reimaging Tax Administration: Social Programs through the Tax Code.  We’ve posted most of the workshop videos on our Youtube channel (you all should subscribe!); you can access the videos and materials from the workshop series on our website here.  In 2022 we will publish our report and recommendations for running social programs through the tax code.

The second part of the Rockefeller grant is to conduct a survey of state and local tax procedure and taxpayer rights, especially as they impact low income and unrepresented taxpayers.  We will be partnering with volunteers from the American Bar Association (ABA) Tax Section’s State and Local Tax Committee and Low Income Tax Clinics (LITCs), as well as others, to complete the survey.  This will be a comprehensive review of taxpayer protections in the context of state (and local) tax administration, including income, employment, property, and other taxes.  From this, we plan to identify best practices as well as harmful consequences of existing practices, and propose model legislation for state funding of LITCs for representation in state-level tax disputes and establishment of state taxpayer advocate offices.

The Rockefeller grant also enabled us to retain Anna Gooch as a research fellow for both projects, and she has worked tirelessly on developing the state survey, consulting with experts, incorporating advice and comments, and basically bringing it to fruition.  The really good news is that Anna has been awarded the American Bar Association Tax Section’s Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship for 2022 to 2024, so we will have Anna with us for at least three years.  Yay!!  (Anna will be posting on PT soon; see her earlier post here.)

As a client of the Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, we filed amicus briefs in two cases on certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.  CIC Services was decided along the lines we briefed, and we are hopeful that Boechler will be as well.  Les has discussed CIC Services here and here, and Keith has discussed the Boechler briefs here.  This is all part of a broader movement to get LITCs to file amicus briefs in cases that impact low income and other pro se taxpayers, even when the cases involve well-off or corporate taxpayers.

Here are a few other things the Center accomplished in 2021:

  • We continued to hold weekly litigation strategy calls with LITCs to share experiences with representing taxpayers before the IRS and the courts, and to coordinate strategy, including litigation, on emerging issues.

  • In May 2021 we held the 5th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights on Quality Tax Audits and the Protection of Taxpayer Rights.  The materials and some of the videos of this session are available here.

  • In October 2021 we held the 6th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights on Taxpayer Rights, Human Rights: Issues for Developing Countries.  This conference was originally scheduled to be held in October 2020 at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.  The materials of the sessions are available here, and videos will be posted this month.

  • We held monthly online Tax Chats! with scholars and researchers on topics as diverse as Gender, Artificial Intelligence, and Administrative Burden in Tax Administration.  You can access the videos of the Tax Chats! here.

  • On May 11, 2021, I testified before the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Taxation and Oversight on the tax gap; and on June 10, 2021, I testified on the same subject before the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittees on Select Revenue Measures and Oversight.

  • On August 13, 2021, I testified before the Australian House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue about the taxpayer bill of rights and the US Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.  The Committee issued its report this November, recommending adoption of a TBOR and that the Inspector General for Taxation adopt some aspects of the US Taxpayer Advocate.  You can read the report here.

  • We participated in a joint project on digital taxation with the World Bank, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Via University and DigiTax at the University of Antwerp; you can watch past online sessions here.

Okay, that’s a lot that we’ve accomplished. So, what is on the docket for 2022 and why do we need your support now? Well, in addition to continuing our work with the 7th International Conference on Taxpayer Rights (at Harvard Law School in May, 2022), Tax Chats! and all that, after the New Year we are launching a new website for the LITC Support Center, which will be just what the name says – a project of the Center for Taxpayer Rights that will provide technical support, training, and assistance to LITCs, promote pro bono representation, and ensure access to justice for low income taxpayers within the tax system. The LITC Support Center website will include training videos and workshops for volunteer attorneys and other tax professionals, including on federal district court litigation. The website will have a section called “Know Your Rights,” which will hold fact sheets and videos for low income taxpayers, VITA volunteers and non-tax advocates on navigating the filing season, tips for self-help, and when to seek help from a LITC. One particular focus is survivors of domestic violence, as they attempt to receive their Rebate Recovery Payments and Child Tax Credit.

But the really big news for 2022, in addition to having Anna as a Public Service Fellow, is the launch of LITC Connect!, the dating app for LITCs and volunteers. We’ve worked all year with our programming team to develop a really neat application. LITCs will be able to create a profile and submit Assistance Requests for volunteers. Volunteer attorneys, CPAs, and Enrolled Agents can create profiles, identifying the types of services they’d like to volunteer for (e.g., representation, Tax Court calendar calls, training, mentoring, providing technical advice) and the types of tax controversies they are interested in working in (e.g., audits, collection, litigation). They can also identify areas of representation they would like additional training in, which will help us develop our training plan. The app algorithm will then match an LITC’s assistance request with the best candidates for volunteering.

Here’s where our funding need comes in – to make this work really well, we need to hire a Pro Bono Coordinator, both to keep the app running smoothly but also to work with the clinics and the volunteers to ensure they have the support and information they need. This is really good stuff we are launching; it may serve as a model for tax clinic programs around the world, especially in developing countries where brick and mortar infrastructure may be too expensive to implement. But for now we need to support LITC Connect! And get it launched right.

So help the Center for Taxpayer Rights help others – donate today!

Thank you.

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