Tax clinic helps low-income people

    The concerned middle-aged husband and wife, who were being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, nervously sat across of a retired tax professional representing the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC).

    They were confused about what was expected of them, but were soon relieved as they listened to his explanations and advice. His suggestions would eventually get them out of the jam they were experiencing. We’re proud to say that this scenario has been repeated hundreds of times here over much of the past decade.

    Milwaukeeans can be proud of the LITC. It’s a program sponsored by a grant from the IRS; funds from UWM; and an in-kind match from Time Warner; Reinhart, Boerner & Van Deuren SC Attorneys at Law and other community organizations.

    We’re convinced that it vividly demonstrates UWM’s commitment to the Milwaukee community. Next year, the LITC will celebrate the ninth year of reaching out to and providing free tax advice for low income taxpayers in the area who find themselves being audited by the IRS.

    The main focus of the clinic is to resolve the tax problems of individual taxpayers who can’t afford the help of tax professionals. Although they are unable to answer any tax questions over the phone, they do encourage an in-person appointment at one of our sites for qualified individuals to get the help that will solve their tax problems. The program reaches out to all low-income taxpayers, including those for whom English is a second language. Interpreters assist them at most of our locations.

    Representatives of the clinic include a practicing tax attorney, two CPAs, several former IRS officers and UWM graduate tax students. These tax experts help taxpayers to respond to IRS audit notices. They assist them in supporting claims for earned income tax credits, IRS collection matters and help in identifying theft cases. If required, the LITC represents before the Appeals Office of the Internal Revenue Service, and finally, when all of the administrative avenues of dispute resolution have been unsuccessful, the LITC will also appear on their behalf before the U.S. Tax Court.

    Several community partners assist in the work of the clinic. They include the Social Development Commission (SDC), Silver Spring Neighborhood Center (SSNC) and United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS). Time Warner Cable donates TV time to advertise our services, and the others donate meeting rooms at their respective locations for taxpayers who are being served by LITC representatives.

    The clinic primarily targets southeastern Wisconsin low-income taxpayers, including those whose first language is Spanish. A toll-free phone number (866-896-5482) was created to ensure that taxpayers from outlying areas are able to contact the clinic without additional financial burden.

    LITC representatives are available Monday through Saturday to meet with taxpayers. If you know of anyone needing to make an appointment, or you would like more information about the clinic’s services, call (414) 229-3232.

    Robert Meldman is the executive director of the Low Income Taxpayers Clinic (LITC) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Mary Rozek, managing director of the LITC, also contributed to this blog.

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