Rutgers Law School students in the Federal Tax Law Clinic in Newark helped New Jersey taxpayers at a problem-solving day held at Bergen Community College over the summer.
Professor Sandy Freund said students Luke Maury RLAW'19 and JaeYoung Song RLAW'19 volunteered to help individual taxpayers, many of whom could not afford attorneys, resolve their problems.
“These aren’t criminal cases,” explained Freund. “They’re trying to resolve the cases early before legal expenses set in. With the students’ help, they can get them fast-tracked for resolution.” At the end of the day, the students were able to settle five cases for individual clients.
“We worked on cases in which the IRS was targeting low-income and unsophisticated taxpayers,” explained Maury. “While these taxpayers were legally entitled to certain tax credits, the IRS was sometimes hostile to our clients. Winning relief for our low-income clients from a hostile IRS was an amazing experience.”
Song said volunteering at the problem-solving day and helping other clients through the Rutgers Federal Tax Law Clinic was valuable in helping her gain real legal experience before graduation, “We helped clients to construct a more affordable installment plan by negotiating with the IRS, sought innocent spouse relief, advocated for clients who had undue hardship, and proved to the IRS that our clients were entitled to certain tax deductions or credits by using proper substantiation.”
At the IRS problem-solving day over the summer, the students met IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, who spoke to the volunteers.
Freund explained that tax clinic students do pro bono legal services for taxpayers under the supervision of professor attorneys, including herself and Professor Cynthia Blum.
Song said the professors provided guidance that helped her with her legal research and her client advocacy as well as negotiating with the IRS more effectively, “Most of the cases were unique, where we would have to study new areas for each case. It was a great learning experience where you would be able to broaden your scope of knowledge and issues within tax law when you came across a new case.”
The student lawyers also said the experience helped them with their career goals. Maury is spending the year after law school graduation clerking, but plans to work as a tax attorney or at an accounting firm. Song is joining the law firm of Agostino & Associates P.C., a firm that specializes in tax controversy.
After working in the Rutgers Federal Tax Law Clinic, both Maury and Song had advice for taxpayers. Maury said, “I would advise all taxpayers to thoroughly maintain their records.” And Song added, “Keeping logs, receipts, and any document or records that may substantiate your case will be helpful...I would like to tell taxpayers that they should never give up, and that there is help.”