LITLAP provides students interested in the fields of law and accounting with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of tax and client engagement through working with low-income taxpayers.
Students have worked with Indigenous communities in rural Alaska; immigrant farmworkers in California and upstate New York; young entrepreneurs in The Dream Hub, Jamaica, Queens; and local VITA sites hosted by community partners.
LITLAP also takes on complex cases, providing advice for clients grappling with off-books pay, undocumented status, dependents living in other countries, starting a new business, or uncertain obligations under the shifting tax code.
Throughout the practicum, students work with clients to facilitate course objectives:
Students interested in the practicum begin by taking the prerequisites, a federal income tax class (either AEM 4531 in the Dyson School or LAW 6441 in the Law School), as well as the unique fall-semester elective, Federal Income Taxation of Low-Income Taxpayers (AEM 4533, AEM 6533, or LAW 6533), taught by Professor John McKinley. This elective brings together students to discuss social, political, and economic issues related to the tax code that impact low-income individuals. It also lays the foundation for the practicum, including IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) certification, which is necessary to complete tax returns on a voluntary basis.
In the spring, these students meet again in the Law School and officially begin LITLAP. Practicing tax lawyers and accountants serve as adjunct professors and supervisors, and class participants become volunteers, serving real clients in a variety of settings.
In the practicum, students use skills learned in the classroom and through VITA training to assist underserved communities and organizations. Students typically assist clients in two main ways.
First, students work directly with select clients in the form of semester-long casework. Previous situations that students have helped resolve include, amended returns, identity theft, prior year returns, tax refund issues, foreign residency, and the relationship between immigration status and taxes.
Second, LITLAP partners with various organizations, several of which are VITA sites, to assist in general tax preparation work. Thank you to all our community partners!