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New Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic Created at Santa Clara University School of Law
Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011
SANTA CLARA, Calif., Aug. 16, 2011 — Santa Clara University School of Law has established the South Bay’s first clinic providing free assistance to low-income taxpayers who have disputes with the Internal Revenue Service.
The Santa Clara University School of Law Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic will be headed by Caroline Tso Chen, previously a senior attorney with the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service in San Jose.
The clinic, which will be fully operational in January, is located at the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, 1030 The Alameda, San Jose.
Through the clinic, SCU law students will provide counsel and advice to clients, and represent the clients’ cases before the IRS and in Tax Court. The IRS and the Tax Court allow such student-attorney representation from law school-affiliated clinics led by a qualified supervising attorney.
Chen, who will act as both clinic director and supervising attorney, said the job fulfills three of her biggest passions: teaching, litigation and community service.
“I’m very excited to be part of this clinic, both for the students and for the community we will serve,” said Chen, who will spend the next several months reaching out to the community to spread the word about the clinic. “The IRS is a very big bureaucracy, and can be very daunting to most taxpayers. I hope we can make the process far less intimidating for our clients.”
Qualifying clients generally must not earn more than certain amounts (currently about $27,000 for a single person or $56,000 for a family of four). Also, the amount of tax in dispute generally will not exceed $50,000. Chen expects the clinic’s clients to need assistance with a wide range of issues, including proving eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit; “innocent spouse” tax issues; and negotiating a tax-reduction and/or payment plan.
Santa Clara Law professor David Hasen said the clinic will be a rigorous learning experience for the law students who sign up to spend between 15 to 25 hours a week at the clinic for a semester.
“This is not filling out tax returns or answering general tax questions. Every student is going to get controversy experience – audits, appeals or even going to Tax Court,” said Hasen, the faculty adviser to the clinic. “Students will get great exposure to tax law, tax procedure, litigation, and dealing with clients.”
Before accepting the job as clinic director, Chen was with the IRS for 13 years, primarily practicing international corporate tax. She holds an LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center, a J.D. from Washington College of Law, and a B.S. from Rutgers. She previously worked at Ernst & Young, practiced as a litigation associate and an assistant district attorney in New York, and clerked for the Honorable Deborah Robinson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
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