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Washington and Lee University

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Tax Law Clinic Awarded Additional IRS Funding

The Washington and Lee University School of Law's Tax Clinic has been awarded a second consecutive annual grant by the Internal Revenue Service--this one for $48,000--to assist low-income taxpayers.

The clinic, directed by Michelle Lyon Drumbl, a former IRS attorney who is assistant clinical professor of law at W&L, offers help at no cost to eligible recipients while giving law students, supervised by faculty, an opportunity to learn about the actual practice of law.

Residents who approach the tax clinic might seek representation for audits, appeals, collection, innocent-spouse relief, and appearances before the U.S. Tax Court.

Students staffing the clinic are taught client interviewing skills, tax procedure and tax policy related to low-income taxpayers. Students also research and compose written comments to submit to Congress, the Treasury Department or the IRS as responses to legislation that might affect taxpayers. Some are expected to go on to specialize in taxes after graduation, perhaps earning a graduate degree in tax law as Drumbl did at New York University.

Besides tax-related issues and cases, the students inform area residents with limited English proficiency or who speak English as a second language about their rights and responsibilities as U.S. taxpayers.

Renewal of the funding, says Drumbl, indicates that the IRS "believes our Tax Clinic had a successful start-up year in 2008 and will continue to thrive." Observing that "it can be overwhelming when the IRS is sending you a letter or challenging you on something," she says "sometimes just having a student who has the time to research, look at things objectively and explain how the IRS works can be very helpful."

Drumbl noted that the students' work through the Tax Clinic "is a great example of the law school's recently heightened emphasis on experiential learning." The W&L School of Law has drawn national attention for significantly revising its third, final year to improve the transition from study to practice.

The Tax Clinic is independent of the IRS and the federal government.