STCL Houston Partners with IRS Chief Counsel’s Office on First “Settlement Saturday” for Houston Taxpayers
Students in South Texas College of Law Houston’s (STCL Houston) Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) applied their classroom learning last weekend, easing financial burdens for dozens of Houston taxpayers — while simultaneously easing the caseload of the U.S. Tax Court.
Partnering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Chief Counsel’s Office, STCL Houston invited taxpayers with pending hearings before the U.S. Tax Court to discuss their cases with students and supervising staff attorneys in the on-campus LITC. Many Houstonians took advantage of the opportunity to resolve their cases on the spot, thereby negating their need to appear before the U.S. Tax Court later this month.
Through “Settlement Saturday” — the first event of its kind in Houston — trained law students worked alongside pro bono attorneys from Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Lone Star Legal Aid, and the Tax Section of the State Bar of Texas to provide free, no-obligation aid to Houston taxpayers. Attorneys from the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office also attended to discuss the cases with taxpayers and the attorneys representing them.
“Houston’s first ‘Settlement Saturday’ was a resounding success — both for the taxpayers who found resolution to their long-standing tax issues, and the law students who gained valuable experience assisting clients,” said Bruce McGovern, director of the LITC and professor of law at STCL Houston. “Attorneys from the IRS Chief Counsel’s Office noted that this ‘Settlement Saturday’ was one of its most successful community outreach efforts nationwide, and expressed interest in repeating this event at our LITC prior to each small case calendar of the U.S. Tax Court.”
STCL Houston launched the LITC in 2016 with a $43,000 IRS grant, and the IRS has supported its initial investment each year through renewal grants of approximately $100,000 to the Clinic. Currently, students and staff attorneys in the LITC have more than 75 active cases and assist taxpayers by providing informal consultations and conducting educational outreach to the community.
Michael Desmond, chief counsel of the IRS, visited the LITC last month and underscored the importance of local nonprofit organizations — such as the LITC — that assist low-income taxpayers, noting that 70 percent of the U.S. Tax Court’s 25,000 pending cases include clients without legal representation.
“Through the LITC, students receive valuable training and experience in communicating with and assisting clients, developing case strategy, and negotiating with an adverse party,” said McGovern. “At the same time, the LITC permits low-income individuals to receive free, high-quality legal representation that makes a real difference in their lives.”
Last year, students and staff attorneys in the LITC — and the other 22 clinics of the Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics at STCL Houston — contributed approximately 35,000 hours of pro bono legal representation to underserved Houston residents — valued at more than $1.8 million.
To qualify for assistance in the LITC, taxpayers must have an annual income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which equates to $29,700 per year for an individual, and $60,750 per year for a family of four. Potential clients can seek LITC assistance by calling the special toll-free number, 1-800-646-1253, or emailing the law school at firstname.lastname@example.org. The LITC at STCL Houston operates year-round, closing only for school holidays. Clinic hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
KHOU (Channel 11) covered the story, which you can view here.