North Carolina Central University School of Law has a new addition to its complement of nationally ranked clinical programs, this one aimed at helping low-income residents with their tax troubles.
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), which began last month, provides assistance for individuals and families experiencing problems with the Internal Revenue Service. The clinic does not provide tax preparation, but offers help in resolving a myriad of tax-related legal issues. The clinic is staffed by students and faculty who have an interest in tax law, and practicing attorneys who offer their services pro bono to the community. The students and practitioners represent low-income taxpayers and negotiate terms with the IRS at little or no cost to the client.
“We typically pick up the problems that happen after people have filed, or not filed, their taxes,” clinic director Tameka Lester said. “This clinic is an opportunity to help some really good people out there who have gotten into bad situations. It’s an opportunity to serve the public.”
Lester holds a bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Winthrop University, a master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix, and is a 2011 graduate of the NCCU School of Law. She is a member of the North Carolina State Bar.
Lester was hired in August to lead the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, which is partially funded through a three-year grant from the IRS. The school received $60,000 for the first year. The clinic helps those who earn less than 250 percent of federal poverty level, which translates to an annual income of no more than $27,225 for a single person.
NCCU’s School of Law placed fourth in the nation in clinical opportunities for students in the latest rankings compiled by preLaw magazine, a National Jurist publication. The rankings are based on the proportion of full-time clinical course positions offered in relation to the number of full-time students.
With the addition of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, NCCU’s law school now offers 14 clinical programs, which pair law students with low-income residents who need free help with everything from paperwork to representation in court. The students are supervised by practicing attorneys.
Under the leadership of Attorney Pamela Stanback Glean, the Clinical Legal Education Program is expanding efforts to serve residents in other areas of the state through the use of videoconferencing technology.
"It is easy for the general public to assume that low-income individuals have very few issues with the IRS,” Glean said. “The response we have had to this new program clearly indicates otherwise. I am proud that NCCU has been given the opportunity to join in the effort to provide this service to those who need it the most.”
For more information or to make an appointment with the clinic, call 919-530-7166 or go to http://law.nccu.edu/clinics.
The clinic also accepts walk-ins from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, at the Albert Turner School of Law Building, 640 Nelson St., Durham, NC 27707.