The Kansas City Tax Clinic has been in operation at UMKC School of Law for over twenty years. It was one of the first clinics to be established under a grant program established by Congress as part of the reform of the IRS. The clinical faculty who lead the clinic are former IRS officials with significant experience. They can bring that extraordinary experience to bear in serving low-income clients and training law students and graduate law students.
One of the clinic’s services is helping with audits of low-income taxpayer’s returns. Many people are surprised to learn that tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit — a credit specially directed to low-income taxpayers with children — are audited at a rate more than twice of all individual tax returns. Research indicates that even if the taxpayer is found to have qualified for the credit after an audit, the experience results in taxpayers being far less likely to claim the credit in subsequent years.
One of the difficulties low-income taxpayers face is that, if they have a situation in which their tax liability surprises them, they have few credit resources to provide them a way to pay. Even with installment agreements with the IRS, they may find it difficult to find a way out of that debt, as penalties add to the original tax liability.
Sometimes clients come for help because of past errors they have made in filing their taxes that can be extremely difficult to correct without expert assistance. The clinic also serves clients in resolving tax collection issues, including the use of installment agreements and offers in compromise. Students working on these cases learn the power and responsibility of their law degree. They witness first-hand how helping clients navigate the complexities of IRS controversies and regain their financial footing can make a dramatic difference in the life of an individual while helping to strengthen the overall economy.