Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic: Shifting to Meet New Demands

Fall Tax Clinic Students
From left to right, Practitioner-in-Residence Maria Dooner, Tax Clinic students Hiro Kishinami, James Min, Taha Onal, Brooke Carloss, Ryan Maykrantz, Lauren Ierardi, Jennifer Algero, Haley Nixon, and Megan Yang

The Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic is shifting to meet the demands of an active tax controversy practice in an altered environment. During the 2021–2022 academic year, Visiting Associate Professor and Acting Director Jacqueline Lainez Flanagan (UDC Law) and Practitioner-in-Residence Maria Dooner are guiding students in navigating the complex demands of United States Tax Court litigation and administrative practice before the IRS in a fast-paced, grant-funded Clinic.

Despite the limitations imposed by the ongoing pandemic affecting the delivery of services and client access to representation, each student is handling between 5-6 cases involving a broad array of audits and exams, collection matters, administrative appeals, penalty abatement issues, identity theft, and U.S. Tax Court representation. Further, students are helping low-income and incarcerated taxpayers access missing stimulus payments authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Cares Act of 2020. Several students are also acting in an advisory capacity on issues related to the Advance Child Tax Credit and tax bankruptcy issues.

Specifically, Brooke Carloss is exploring how the distributed Advance Child Tax Credit affects a client’s custody agreement. Jennifer Algero and Hirokazu Kishinami are analyzing and verifying their clients’ eligibility to discharge taxes in bankruptcy. Megan Yang is handling a U.S. Tax Court matter involving misattributed cancellation of debt income. Emily Wilt is researching the tax implications of an embassy employee’s change in immigration status. Lauren Ierardi is helping a client obtain collection relief after the taxpayer suffered a stroke that severely affected her ability to tend to her financial affairs, including timely tax return filing. Taha Onal recently represented a single mother in a Collection Due Process hearing, successfully contesting a substantial, incorrectly assessed underlying tax liability. James Min is negotiating with IRS Counsel in a U.S. Tax Court case to reverse the disallowance of head of household status and the Earned Income Tax Credit for a low-income taxpayer with a disabled child. 

All in all, the Clinic continues to advocate on behalf of low-income workers who are least equipped to handle the labyrinthine network of administrative and legal channels to properly access the benefits to which they are entitled.