Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic

About the Clinic:

The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, students will take lead responsibility to directly represent low-income taxpayers with tax controversies with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB). Students will learn and practice what it means to be a client-centered lawyer in the tax system by taking responsibility for all aspects of their cases.  In addition to learning the substantive and procedural tax law necessary to represent their clients, students will learn lawyering skills applicable across numerous practice areas, including client interviewing and counseling, fact-finding, case research and development, and written and oral advocacy before the administrative bodies of IRS and FTB, and, occasionally, the U.S. Tax Court or other federal courts.

Students will also be encouraged to engage in client outreach and education to low-income and ESL- or non-English-speaking populations, as well as advocacy efforts on their behalf. This may include preparing and presenting educational workshops or drafting public comments on tax laws, regulations, or forms.

The course is a Qualifying Tax and Tax-Related Elective towards the Tax Concentration.

Clinical Instructor:

The Clinic is taught by Professor Amy Spivey.

Classroom Component:

Class will meet twice per week for a seminar that will focus on learning the relevant areas of tax law and necessary lawyering skills. A single-day boot camp will be held early in the semester. Tax law topics include tax credits, audits, appeals, taxpayer rights in tax collections with the IRS and FTB, relief from joint and several liability, and federal tax litigation. Students will practice lawyering skills through simulation and role-play exercises and learn the importance of self-reflection and receiving constructive feedback in developing their professional identities. Several classes will be devoted to case rounds, where student pairs lead a discussion to reflect on and brainstorm their cases with the class. Throughout the semester, students will examine how the tax system impacts low-income and ESL taxpayers and the role of lawyers in providing services to underserved communities in order to ensure the fairness and integrity of our tax system.

Fieldwork Component:

Students will work an average of 16 hours per week representing clients in a wide variety of tax controversy cases. Students will work in pairs, handling all aspects of client representation, with guidance and support from Professor Spivey. Typical fieldwork includes client interviewing and counseling, conducting tax research, preparing legal forms and documents, and interacting directly with the tax agencies to help resolve our clients’ tax controversies. Students also have the opportunity to attend Tax Court Calendar Calls in San Francisco to view court proceedings, help provide advice to unrepresented taxpayers, and observe negotiations between pro bono attorneys and IRS Counsel.


Federal Income Taxation

Open to: 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th semester JD students, LLM students and MSL students. It is not possible to concurrently enroll in the same semester in both this course and another live-client clinic, legal or judicial externship, or the Startup Legal Garage.

7 units:  3-unit non-GPA class and 4-unit fieldwork must be taken concurrently. Students receive a letter grade for the class (based on all aspects of their work in the seminar and fieldwork), as well as credit/no-credit for the fieldwork units. Fieldwork units count against the maximum of 20 non-classroom units that a JD student can earn.

To Apply: Apply using the Common Clinic Application on Canvas.

Please send any questions to Professor Spivey at spiveyamy@uchastings.edu.

For community members, please see here for more information.