Through USD Tax Clinic, Law Students Offer Free Tax Representation

Through USD Tax Clinic, Law Students Offer Free Tax Representation

Led by their professor, a group of law students at the University of South Dakota (USD) seeks to get hands-on experience practicing law while aiding lower-income families and individuals with federal tax disputes.

Students taking the Low-Income Tax Clinic (LITC) class at USD represent clients below the poverty level, established by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), who need help dealing with tax issues including, assessments, collections and compliance.

“We deal a lot with people who are trying to claim dependents on their income tax returns, and the IRS hasn’t accepted it for some reason,” Briana Geraets, a second-year law student in the class, told the Press & Dakotan. “The clinic (steps) in and we need to find alternative ways to prove that these people actually are dependents under the taxpayer.”

Students in the LITC also deal with IRS tax audits and can organize offers or compromise settlements for the clinic’s clients, she said.

“We fill out Power of Attorney forms with the IRS, so we get power of attorney for the client and can work on their behalf,” said Geraets, who is currently working with nine clients through the LITC.

Being able to help the people is a great experience, she said.

Once students complete the class, they can continue to help individuals through the Volunteer Income Tax Clinic (VITA), a free tax preparation service offered at Vermillion’s Edith B. Siegrist Public Library at 18 Church Street. For more information, email or call 605-677-7060.

Geraets said she plans on volunteering for VITA once she is done with LITC.

“The (LITC) class is really unique because it’s the first time that a lot of us are getting actual clients,” she said. “You can’t take (the class) until you’re a second- or third-year law student, and you have to take it in accordance with certain prerequisites to have the basic knowledge necessary to adequately help these clients.”

All case work done by student lawyers is checked by experienced graduate assistants or professor/clinic director Rebecca Stavish, a licensed attorney, Geraets said, adding that, in keeping with professional legal standards, the service is also confidential.

Read the full story at Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan.