The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
April 7, 2011

Ten Pro Bono Ways To Stop Dreading Tax Day

April 15 is just around the corner — a day that strikes dread in the stoutest of hearts.  But it needn’t, for a variety of reasons.  Here at The PBEye, we’ve put together a list of pro bono tips to stop dreading tax day.

1.  Participate in an IRS-sponsored VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) clinic for low-income taxpayers, and help low-income taxpayers take advantage of tax credits designed precisely for them.

2.  Sponsor a year-round low-income taxpayer clinic, because the other 364 days get jealous.

3.  Sponsor a year round tax clinic for particularly vulnerable populations who are eligible for pro bono assistance, such as the elderly, the chronically ill, or the homeless.

4.  Partner with a law school to have greater impact by reaching more people and equipping future lawyers with essential pro bono skills.

5.  Help nonprofits achieve and maintain 501(c)(3) status.

6.  Research federal and state tax rules that seem to unduly burden vulnerable populations.

7.  Advocate for changes in tax regulations – you might even find success!  In Australia, lawyers successfully lobbied for tax reforms to give elderly terminal cancer patients certain tax breaks.

8.  Represent low-income tax payers in tax court.  Your efforts can help them achieve more favorable settlements, or even avoid undue liability entirely.

9.  Help nonprofits negotiate repayment plans, because sometimes it’s simply not their fault. The IRS changed its guidelines for evaluating an Offer in Compromise (OIC) at a pro bono law firm’s urging after two charities found themselves saddled with significant tax liabilities as a result of fraud committed by their accountant.

10.  Save the planet while helping eligible homeowners take advantage of existing environmentally friendly tax credits or lobbying for their creation.  Pro bono lawyers are working on behalf of a nonprofit organization to export to other states California’s legislation that allows people to install solar energy in their homes with little upfront costs by paying for it over time as part of their property taxes.

What tax-related pro bono projects are you working on?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

Hat tip to PBI intern Elly Bennett for her help with this post.

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