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South Texas Law Receives $26K Grant for Fellows to Support Outreach for Low-Income Tax Clinic

Home Law School News South Texas Law Receives $26K Grant for Fellows to Support Outreach for Low-Income Tax Clinic

The Texas Bar Foundation recently awarded South Texas College of Law Houston $26,400 for post-graduate fellowships in the Low-Income Tax Clinic (LITC).

Under the direction of the LITC faculty and staff, current law students enrolled in the Low-Income Tax Clinic course assist clients in negotiating with IRS examining agents, filing protests with IRS Appeals, negotiating with appeals officers, preparing, and filing petitions with the U.S. Tax Court, and addressing collection through mechanisms such as preparing offers in compromise.

The LITC is part of South Texas Law’s Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics. Professor Bruce McGovern is the professor of law in charge of all tax clinics and director of the LITC, and Jeff Gold is LITC assistant director, a public interest attorney, and an adjunct professor. McGovern and Gold will supervise the post-graduate fellows.

The LITC post-graduate fellows will plan, manage, and execute monthly community outreach events and educational programs for the clinic. This is vitally important because the tax clinic receives funding from the Internal Revenue Service and is required to provide educational programming for low-income communities. Also, providing stipends and relevant work experience for post-graduate fellows promotes and encourages a public interest attorney pipeline for postgraduates at the law school between graduation and bar exam results.

The LITC helps meet the significant need in the region for pro bono tax assistance. Staff and students provide assistance at approximately four Tax Court calendar calls in Houston each year. The clinic receives a significant number of requests for assistance from local residents who have received notifications from the IRS and the Tax Court that include contact information for STCL Houston’s LITC.

Since its inception in 2016, the law school’s LITC has served low-income taxpayers in the Houston metropolitan area, including those in rural communities surrounding Houston. In the six years since it began, the LITC has opened a total of 293 new cases, and the workload has steadily increased. In 2022 alone, the LITC opened 39 new cases and worked a total of 126 cases.

In the past, the LITC has provided outreach at locations including the Jones Public Library, Star of Hope, Project Row House, and the law firm Porter Hedges’ day of service in the Second Ward neighborhood. Students enrolled in the LITC also developed videos that address a wide range of common tax issues faced by low-income taxpayers. These videos are publicly available on the LITC’s YouTube channel.

“We are grateful to the Texas Bar Foundation for this generous grant to fund fellows who support our tax clinic benefiting low-income individuals and families,” said Catherine Greene Burnett, vice president, associate dean for experiential learning, and professor of law. “Low-income Texans need free or low-cost legal information and representation now more than ever.”

Through the various legal clinics at South Texas Law — generally approximately 20 per year — students, faculty, and staff attorneys have served the low-income community of Greater Houston since the first clinic opened in 1990. Over the past 30 years, the clinics have provided direct legal representation, advice, and counsel — and community education outreach — for low-income Houstonians dealing with a wide range of legal issues.

In addition, when representatives of the law school’s clinics conduct educational programs in the community, they distribute informational flyers about the LITC to any potential clients in attendance. The flyers are available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Operating in a culturally and ethnically diverse community like Houston, all clinic faculty and staff are well-versed in serving clients from a wide range of backgrounds. With six Spanish-speaking staff members working in the Legal Clinics and one Vietnamese-speaking staff member, the legal clinics are well-equipped to provide immediate translation services for the two primary ESL populations in the area.

Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $26 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably funded bar foundation.

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