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Bar News - September 22, 2006

Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic: Helping Those in Need Make a Fresh Start


 Atty. Champagne and the Dusseaults
Theresa and Louis Dusseault, of Goffstown, learn more about the low-income taxpayer clinic from Attorney Joceline Champagne, LITC project coordinator for the NHBA’s Pro Bono Referral Program, right, during a recent outreach event in Manchester.

Every year in April, most of us gather our W2 forms and dutifully file our tax returns. If we are lucky, we planned accordingly and paid enough throughout the year and do not owe anything to Uncle Sam. Sometimes, we put aside too much and happily receive a check in the mail. For many others, however, due to a variety of often unforeseen reasons, debt owed to the IRS goes unpaid and accrues interest and penalties at an unforgiving rate. The debt can feel like an insurmountable obstacle for a family living paycheck to paycheck.


Everyday, low-income taxpayer clinics across the country talk with these individuals who are feeling the pressure of IRS debt and are desperate to get out from under the burden. Unfortunately, many try to handle the situation on their own but often encounter administrative road blocks that stop them from moving forward. The clinics leverage the resources of staff and volunteer attorneys to help these individuals resolve their IRS disputes so they can make a fresh start.


NH Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic

The New Hampshire Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, funded in part by a grant from the IRS, is in its fourth year of operation at the Pro Bono Referral Program. Each year, we also hear from many low-income taxpayers anxious to resolve disputes with the IRS. A panel of volunteer New Hampshire tax attorneys assist these taxpayers with a variety of tax-related controversies.


The issues, problems and areas tackled by the panel include deficiency notices, notices of levy, lien, or audit, innocent or injured spouse claims, offers in compromise, and earned income tax credit eligibility. In order to qualify for assistance through the clinic, taxpayers are financially screened and must have a gross income that does not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. (For a family of two, for example, the family may gross $33,000 or less per year in order to be eligible.) In addition, the amount in controversy for any taxable year must not exceed $50,000.


CLE/Attorney Training


On October 13, the Clinic’s annual CLE/attorney training will take place from 9:00-1:00 at the NH Bar Center in Concord. (See the registration form on this page.) The training will feature attorney Mary Gillum, coordinator and staff attorney for the Tennessee Taxpayer Project. Those attending last year’s training raved that Gillum was “an energetic, enthusiastic, and informative speaker.” Others thought the program provided “useful insights and practical advice in addressing tax issues with the IRS.”


If you are interested in learning more about resolving taxpayer disputes with the IRS or are a seasoned tax attorney looking for an update on key provisions of IRS rules, you are encouraged to attend Gillum’s presentation.


A portion of this year’s program will provide a short overview and update of “innocent spouse” relief rules. Although you may not consider yourself a “tax attorney” this information may help those who handle domestic cases where there are often tax issues that come to light in the course of litigation. Come to the training and hear about how Gillum has successfully argued these cases before the IRS, and how you might do the same the next time you are assisting a client with such a claim.


Taxpayer Project Volunteers Needed


Practicing law can be rigorous and time consuming. However, many New Hampshire attorneys find the time to take pro bono cases on a regular basis. As a Taxpayer Project volunteer you can join our dedicated panel of attorneys and help low-income taxpayers and their families obtain a much needed fresh start. An attorney on the panel recently remarked that the pro bono tax case she had taken on was one of the more rewarding pro bono cases she had handled. She handled the case from start to finish, knowing that, in the end, her work would mean a clean slate for her client.


Those with questions about the program or the upcoming CLE are encouraged to contact Joceline Champagne, project coordinator, at 603-228-6028 or


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