Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

Providing clinical and pro bono opportunities to Harvard Law School students

Tag: Keith Fogg

Virus Poses Extra Obstacles for Attorneys With Tax Court Cases

via Bloomberg Tax

By Jeffery Leon and Aysha Bagchi

The limits of the technology at the U.S. Tax Court are making things more difficult for attorneys amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many expect to see a document backlog once the court building reopens. Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

The new coronavirus pandemic is increasing the challenges for attorneys representing clients at the U.S. Tax Court, a place already slow to technological advancement.

Attorneys have long grappled with technological barriers at the court—not being able to electronically file petitions or access many case documents online, for example. But now that the building is shuttered until further notice, tax professionals are facing additional hurdles, and they fear it could get worse the longer the virus outbreak continues.

The court has historically struggled with a backlog of cases, a situation that got worse during the 35-day government shutdown at the end of 2018. Such delays are likely to happen again, tax attorneys said.

Backlog concerns have spurred questions about whether the IRS will have to take special measures to get through cases more quickly, according to Frank Agostino, president of Agostino & Associates, P.C.

“The most frequently asked question is, ‘Will there be a coronavirus-based settlement program or offer-in-compromise?’” he said. An offer-in-compromise would allow taxpayers to settle their debts for less than the original amount owed.

Antiquated Practices

Tax professionals are urging the court to enable e-filing petitions, which could ease some of the strain from processing mailed petitions, and spare individuals from needing to go to crowded post office locations.

“They really need to find a way to ensure public access,” said Anson Asbury, founder of Asbury Law Firm who represents clients before the court.

Hand-mailed petitions and in-person documents are antiquated practices that are hindering the court’s services during the pandemic, said Kelley Miller, a partner in the tax group at Reed Smith LLP who practices in the court.

“The judges and staff at the Tax Court have been working for years to enhance access to online services and improve the interface of the Tax Court’s website, but unfortunately the pandemic hits at a time when the Court was, I believe, focused on introducing some of those changes,” Miller said.

Tax Court Judge L. Paige Marvel previously said the Tax Court could be ready with a new case management system that would allow for petition e-filing this spring. She said rules to permit petition e-filing weren’t in place because there wasn’t a system to enable expanding e-filing to include petitions.

The Tax Court didn’t return a request for comment.

Document Access Troubles

One result of the building closure is that visitors can’t access court documents at the Tax Court’s records room. Those who are unable to get the documents from the actual petitioner or that person’s attorney are left with one potentially prohibitive option: Pay a $0.50 per page charge from the Tax Court and have the documents mailed. The Tax Court has cited concerns about privacy as a reason to preserve those restrictions.

That can be an issue particularly for people interested in reaching out to self-represented petitioners because their contact information can be viewed on their petition, said T. Keith Fogg, who directs Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic.

“It’s no longer possible to go to the court and sit in the docket room to do research or to call the court and get copies of documents,” Fogg said. “The closing of the court accentuates the problems caused by the Tax Court’s decision not to make its documents public except through a portal that becomes unavailable when it closes.”

Charles M. Ruchelman, member at Caplin & Drysdale Chartered in Washington, pushed back on any move to make all filings public, saying the Tax Court’s system is in place to protect taxpayer privacy, and it would be a big ask for the court to redact all documents for sharing online.

IRS Weighing Relief Options

A lingering concern for tax professionals is the window to file petitions. Under tax code Section 6213, a taxpayer has 90 days to file a petition with the Tax Court after getting a notice of deficiency, after which the IRS can assess the tax if a petition wasn’t filed.

The agency has offered some relief to individuals already during the pandemic, pushing back some deadlines to pay and file taxes, and easing off many enforcement actions. Officials are aware the changes don’t resolve the 90-day issue, and it’s something they are thinking about, IRS Chief Counsel Michael Desmond said late last month on a press call hosted by the American Bar Association tax section.

Petition deadlines “are at the top of our list of things to consider,” he said.

Even with existing relief, facing a tax assessment after missing the 90-day deadline to file a petition may still be very important to a taxpayer who is disputing a large tax bill, said Guinevere Moore, a partner at Johnson Moore who litigates tax issues.

“That’s going to have all sorts of ramifications from a practical business perspective, from a credit perspective, from a lending perspective,” Moore said.

—With assistance from Allyson Versprille.

 

Expect More Litigation Over IRS Penalty Approval Rules

via Bloomberg Tax

by Aysha Bagchi

Street view of the front of the IRS headquarters in Washington.

The U.S. Tax Court is grappling with a legal requirement governing penalties issued by the IRS. Above, the agency’s headquarters in Washington. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Courts are likely to continue examining a requirement that IRS employees get their boss to OK penalty decisions before they are presented to taxpayers, even after the U.S. Tax Court issued a recent string of opinions addressing the issue.

The Tax Court’s 2017 ruling in Graev v. Commissioner interpreted tax code Section 6751(b) as requiring the IRS to obtain supervisory approval in a tax deficiency case by the time it imposes related tax penalties.

Since January, the Tax Court has grappled with multiple aspects of the requirement, trying to establish the exact point in the process when the requirement must be met and which penalties need approval. But recent wins for the agency on large penalty amounts are likely to be appealed and the approval issue is expected to continue to come up in new cases.

Frank Agostino, who represented the petitioners in Graev, told Bloomberg Tax his firm is working on more cases at the Tax Court tied to the approval requirement. Agostino mentioned three specific cases his firm is litigating before the Tax Court, including Grajales v. Commisoner, which questions whether the penalty for taking early withdrawals from qualified retirement plans is subject to Section 6751(b) approval requirements.

“Everyday we find another issue,” said Agostino, founder and president of Agostino & Associates P.C. in Hackensack, N.J.

The court’s interpretation of these issues is significant for the IRS because it can lose out on penalties if judges rule the agency failed to get approval when it should have or got approval too late in the process. The IRS collected billions in accuracy-related penalties from individuals, estates, and trusts in fiscal 2018, according to the IRS’s most recent databook.

Appeals on Divisive Issue

Potential appeals of two recent decisions involving the same legal question—what constitutes an “initial determination” when it comes to assessing whether the IRS got supervisory approval on time—may be the most closely watched going forward.

Eight Tax Court judges signed onto the lead opinion in January 6’s Belair Woods, LLC v. Commissioner, holding that the initial determination occurs when the IRS “formally” notifies a taxpayer of its decision to impose penalties.

But the remaining eight judges disagreed either with the concrete outcome in the case or on whether the initial determination is always the first formal communication of the penalty decision—in this case marked by a 60-day letter informing a partnership of its right to appeal the penalty decision.

The decision from the eight lead judges in Belair was also applied in Tribune Media Co. v. Commissioner to uphold penalties against the Chicago Cubs holding company and former Cubs part-owner Tribune Media Co. In that case, Tribune was hit with a nearly $72.7 million penalty.

“My odds are that both the taxpayers in Belair Woods and Tribune Media will appeal,” said Bryan Camp, a former IRS lawyer who is now a professor at the Texas Tech School of Law.

Waiting for More

In each case, the Tax Court has further issues to resolve before the parties could appeal a final judgment.

Belair Woods LLC unsuccessfully sought an interlocutory appeal, which would have paused the Tax Court’s consideration of the remaining issues to allow for an appeal.

“Given the divided decision of the Tax Court, we think it would be appropriate for an appellate court to review the Tax Court’s decision on the 6751(b) issue and determine whether the standard established by the majority opinion is consistent with the statute and Congress’s intent,” said Michelle Abroms Levin, a shareholder at Sirote & Permutt PC, which represents Belair Woods.

An attorney at Mayer Brown LLP, which represents Tribune Media Co. and the Chicago Cubs holding company, declined to comment when asked if an appeal is planned in that case.

If appealed, Belair Woods would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, while Tribune Media would head to the Seventh Circuit.

The fact that all the judges weighed in on the Belair decision increases the chances that it will get reversed, according to T. Keith Fogg, director of the Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

“When you look at fully reviewed opinions that get appealed, they get reversed more than other Tax Court opinions that have also been appealed because they’re controversial—they’re close questions,” Fogg told Bloomberg Tax.

Other recent penalty approval cases that could be appealed include: Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson Sales, Inc. v. Comm’rChadwick v. Comm’r; and Carter v. Comm’r.

“I expect appeals in every case the taxpayers have lost involving 6751(b) where the taxpayers are represented by counsel,” said Carlton M. Smith, who formerly directed the Carodozo School of Law’s tax clinic and now is a retired volunteer at Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic.

Remembering Dale Kensinger

via Procedurally Taxing

by Keith Fogg

Black and white headshot of Dale Kensinger

Dale Kensinger

On January 15, 2020, Dale Kensinger passed away leaving a big hole at the Tax Clinic at Harvard Law School.  You can find his obituary here.  Until very recently Dale put in a few days a week doing volunteer work at the tax clinic, where he had his own dedicated office as part of the supervising team.

I first met Dale on March 14, 1977, when I started working for Chief Counsel, IRS in Branch 3 of the Refund Litigation Division.  Dale was one of nine attorneys in the branch and was the second most senior.  As a newly minted law school graduate, I remember thinking Dale, who was about 35 at the time, was really old.  He was also extremely knowledgeable, generous with his time and kind.  I was fortunate to start my legal career in a small branch of attorneys that included someone like Dale.

Dale moved on to the Kansas City office of Chief Counsel only nine months after I arrived.  I moved on after just 18 months because of a reorganization that sent all of us to field offices across the country or to other National Office divisions.  Dale worked in the Kansas City office from 1978 to 1999 where he became the Assistant District Counsel.  Other than seeing him at the occasional training program, our paths essentially did not cross during these years though we both worked for the same large organization.

He retired in 1999 and founded the low income taxpayer clinic at University of Missouri – Kansas City.  He also became active in the ABA tax section and quickly rose to leadership in the low income taxpayer committee.  When I retired in 2007 and began teaching at Villanova, I reconnected with Dale through the ABA Tax Section.  Then Dale retired again in 2009 to move from Kansas City to Boston to be near his daughter, Elizabeth.  Following his retirement from the UMKC clinic, Dale became less active with the ABA but he was not finished helping low income taxpayers.

My colleague at the Legal Services Center at Harvard, Dan Nagin, arrived in 2012 to start a veteran’s clinic and quickly found that he had many clients who needed tax assistance.  Dan searched around for someone who could help these clients and connected with Dale.  Dale worked with volunteer students from Harvard to service the veteran clients until Dan could convince the Harvard faculty to formally start a tax clinic.  When the tax clinic formally started in 2015, I came to Harvard as a visitor to get it going and had the incredibly good fortune to have Dale there already to guide me once again.

Dale served three years in the air force during the Vietnam War.  His time as a veteran, his kind and patient nature as well as his deep knowledge of tax practice, allowed him to fix the tax problems of many veterans, and others, during the five years I worked with him in the tax clinic at Harvard.  He not only handled a substantial docket but he mentored students, fellows and me.  The tax clinic misses him on many levels.  His clients miss him deeply and several have commented to me over the past two months how much he helped them and how much they hoped and prayed for his recovery.

Because of his extraordinary service to low income taxpayers in his retirement, Dale was selected in 2018 as the co-recipient of the Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award which is the only annual award given by the Tax Section.  The ABA Tax Section describes the award and the selection criteria as follows:

This award was established in 2002 to recognize one or more individuals or law firms for outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities in tax law. In 2007 the award was renamed in honor of the late Janet Spragens, who received the award in 2006 in recognition of her dedication to the development of low income taxpayer clinics throughout the United States.

Throughout the 50+ years of his career as a tax lawyer, Dale provided a model of caring about finding the right answer through his legal skills and caring about his clients with his interpersonal skills.  At the tax clinic we are reminded daily of Dale’s work as we try to finish what he started with the clients he was representing.  We were very fortunate to have him as a colleague and a role model for so many years.  I will miss our regular talks about baseball, politics, difficult clients, difficult IRS employees and wonderful granddaughters.  Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family at this time.

Clinic Stories: Prepping for the U.S. Court of Appeals

via Harvard Law Today

Through Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic, students have the unique opportunity represent low-income taxpayers in disputes with the IRS, both before the IRS and in federal court. Working individually and in teams, they represent taxpayers involving examinations, administrative appeals collection matters, and cases before the United States Tax Court and federal district courts.

In this video, we follow Adeyemi “Yemi” Adediran ’21, a second year student in the Clinic, as he prepares to argue an appeal on behalf of a military veteran with PTSD in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago. The veteran’s appeal to the Seventh Circuit centered on his eligibility for innocent spouse relief under the Internal Revenue Code. Over a three year period, the veteran’s wife embezzled $500K from the Appleton, Wisconsin Blood Bank—where she worked as a bookkeeper. She was arrested and sentenced to jail, but because the couple filed taxes jointly and embezzled money is taxable, they were both legally responsible for back taxes on the money.

As an important part of his preparation, Adediran participated in a mooting session before a panel of “judges” including Keith Fogg, clinical professor and director of the Federal Tax Clinic, and Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin, vice dean for experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School (LSC), of which the Tax Clinic is a part.

You can read more about the Federal Tax Clinic and other LSC clinics and services at legalservicescenter.org.

Learning by Doing: A Student’s Perspective from LSC’s Safety Net Project

Via the Legal Services Center

By: Bryan Sohn

Bryan Sohn, center, pictured with attorney David Young (left) and LSC Tax Clinic Director Keith Fogg at LSC’s 40th Anniversary on April 5, 2019.

Bryan Sohn, center, pictured with attorney David Young (left) and LSC Tax Clinic Director Keith Fogg at LSC’s 40th Anniversary on April 5, 2019.

Before law school, I spent four years working in the education and non-profit world. By the end of my 1L year, I was feeling frustrated about being trapped in the “HLS bubble.” Without a doubt, my courses were fascinating and my professors wonderful. But I felt disconnected. And so I decided to seek out clinics. I considered the education law and child advocacy clinics but realized that I should branch out beyond my comfort zone. I signed up for the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic at the Legal Services Center (LSC) in large part because it reminded me of my students (from my high school teaching days) who have gone on to join the armed forces. And I ended up making the best decision of my law school career so far. My time at the clinic has been extraordinarily formative: in fact, the wonderful team at LSC couldn’t get rid of me and I’m now back for a second semester as an advanced clinical student!

The Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic is divided into three projects: the Veterans Justice Project, the Estate Planning Project, and the Safety Net Project. I signed up for the Safety Net Project, which focuses primarily on Social Security benefits litigation. My wonderful supervisor, Julie McCormack, wasted no time in throwing me straight into the deep end. On my first day at the LSC, I was informed that I had a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) the following week: I needed to get up to speed on Social Security law and draft that 15-page brief right away!

I quickly learned that this is a huge part of what makes the Safety Net Project and the Veterans Law Clinic so special. There is very little hand-holding. Students learn by doing. I was expected to the take the lead in building client relationships, building up medical records, and defining case strategies. Once I got staffed on a new case, I would spend several days wrestling with the facts and the law, shuttling back and forth between my carrel and Julie’s office. I would take the lead, but Julie was always available to share her support, wisdom, and incredible feedback despite having (at least) a gazillion other cases on her docket. Rinse and repeat. In my first semester, I ended up handling four ALJ hearings and three cases at the Appeals Council. The experience has supercharged my legal research and writing skills. I like to describe the LSC as a high-powered litigation boutique with a twist. Students take full responsibility for their cases and learn by tackling their cases head-on. But it’s a litigation boutique where the partners actually care about you. In fact, they are there precisely to support you. And most importantly, it’s a firm where the work itself is extraordinarily meaningful.

Above all, I will continue to treasure the relationships that I’ve built with our clients. My time at LSC has taught me what it means to lawyer as friend. So many moments come to mind: giving our client a hug after she broke down at the end of a successful hearing, finding out that a client who had suffered through post-traumatic stress disorder and over two dozen reconstructive surgeries would not lose her home because she had just won her benefits, and so much more. I’m so incredibly grateful to our clients for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their stories.

In my second semester at the clinic, I have continued to handle ALJ and Appeals Council cases. I am also partnering with a student at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau as we prepare to argue a Social Security appeal at federal district court. Briefs have been submitted and oral argument is scheduled for September. I am incredibly excited to continue my LSC journey and get our clients the results that they deserve!

Shutdown Inflicted ‘Real Harm’ on Taxpayers, IRS Watchdog Says

Via The Wall Street Journal

By: Richard Rubin

The recent government shutdown damaged the Internal Revenue Service, an agency already struggling with budget cuts and aging computer systems, according to the IRS’s in-house watchdog.

IRS employees are working through more than five million pieces of correspondence and tens of thousands of backlogged audit responses and amended returns, according to an annual report released Tuesday.

In the week after the shutdown ended, the wait time on the IRS accounts-management phone line was 17 minutes, up from four minutes last year. And only 48% reached a live person, down from 86% in the equivalent week last year. Wait times were even longer on other IRS hotlines.

“Make no mistake about it, these numbers translate into real harm to real taxpayers,” wrote Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, in her report. Ms. Olson operates as an ombudsman within the IRS and oversees employees who assist the public in dealing with the tax agency.

The way the IRS operated during the shutdown also hurt vulnerable taxpayers, Ms. Olson wrote. Before and during the shutdown, the IRS continued sending notices that had “serious consequences” but made it difficult or impossible for taxpayers to get the information they needed to respond.

For example, taxpayers couldn’t get seizures of their property reversed even if they were facing severe economic hardship and banks may already have removed the money from their accounts. Ms. Olson’s employees often assist with that work, but they were largely furloughed and unable to do so.

In some cases, taxpayers’ Tax Court petitions were returned to sender during the shutdown, meaning that tax collection continued even in cases where the law would suspend it. Fixing that problem will cost money for the court and for the IRS, Ms. Olson wrote.

“It is unconscionable for the government to allow its employees to enforce collection of taxes without the concomitant taxpayer rights protections enacted by Congress,” she wrote, recommending that lawmakers change the rules for future shutdowns.

Low-income taxpayers, in particular, are at risk of getting discouraged when the government stops responding, which could lead to accumulating interest and penalties.

“No one’s there and so there’s a higher likelihood that they could disengage entirely,” said Jennifer Breen, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP who represents low-income and corporate clients.

On the corporate side, the shutdown is having lingering effects as IRS employees pick up cases they set aside months ago while interest costs accrue and companies spend money on advisers. Ms. Breen said she spent time on calls with IRS employees on Tuesday preparing for how to handle cases if another shutdown happens.

“Any time you stop the train from moving, the act of starting it back up again takes so much more effort,” Ms. Breen said. “We’re still figuring out all of the delays and all of the impacts.”

Tony Reardon, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers, said the public should be alarmed by the “damage that has been done to the agency’s workforce and the taxpayers they want to serve.”

“Today’s report brings into sharp relief just how difficult it is for an underfunded, understaffed agency to function at a high level when most of its workforce was locked out for a month before the start of the filing season,” Mr. Reardon said.

In a statement about Ms. Olson’s report, the IRS said it is committed to improving its technology, enforcement and service.

“The IRS successfully reopened operations following the shutdown, and the agency is seeing a good start to the 2019 filing season,” the statement said. “We are continuing to assess the impact of the shutdown on our various operations across the agency and remain proud of the many IRS employees who have risen to the resulting challenges.”

Ms. Olson’s calls for tax simplification, taxpayer rights and a customer-service approach at the IRS have at times translated into change. The IRS and Congress have adopted some of her suggestions, including requiring brokers to report on the cost basis of stocks and adjusting some filing deadlines.

The shutdown came as the IRS was implementing the first filing season under the 2017 tax law, which came with new forms, new rules and changes to withholding and deductions that are confusing some taxpayers.

The new Form 1040, which has a postcard-style front page and backup schedules, increases the potential for errors, Ms. Olson wrote.

Also, experts expect average refunds are likely to be larger this year, but fewer people are likely to get them, which presents its own challenge for the IRS. Keith Fogg, a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School, said Tuesday that if 1% or 2% of taxpayers shift to owing money at filing time, that can create lots of extra work for the IRS as employees negotiate installment plans and respond to collections notices.

“Even people who owe only a small amount of money, if they don’t have that small amount of money, [they] are going to put a big burden on the system,” he said.

Those immediate issues come alongside a longer-term shift at the IRS from a model that offers taxpayers more assistance to one that relies more heavily on them to navigate the system, Mr. Fogg said.

“Every time they have to interact with the IRS in some way, we make it really hard for them now,” he said.

Tax Clinic Student Amy Feinberg ’18 argues in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Via Harvard Law Today

In December, Amy Feinberg ’18 became the second Federal Tax Clinic student to argue an appeal in a federal circuit court since the Clinic opened at Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School in 2015.

For Feinberg, appearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was also the first time she had ever been in a courtroom. Second on the docket that day, she had to wait nearly an hour to put forward her client’s case, even though Feinberg was “hyped and ready to go” almost since she arrived in Richmond, VA., the night before.

Clinical Professor of Law Keith Fogg, who directs the Federal Tax Clinic, notes that many attorneys can be practicing for 10 or more years before they get the kind of experience that Feinberg, and her predecessor Jeff Zink ’17, have gotten while enrolled in the Clinic.

Other students in the Clinic have had the opportunity to file amicus briefs and help prepare appeals for court.  All students work directly with clients and carry a docket of cases. And almost all have the opportunity to negotiate directly with the IRS and state tax authorities – experiences that many lawyers seldom get.

Continue reading

T. Keith Fogg named clinical professor of law

Via Harvard Law Today

Credit: Bob Laramie

Credit: Bob Laramie

Keith Fogg, an expert in tax law and procedure and director of Harvard Law School’s Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center, has been named clinical professor of law at HLS.

For more than 30 years, Fogg worked in the Office of Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. He joined the faculty of Villanova Law School, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. He developed a course for the Georgetown LL.M. program, Federal Taxation of Bankruptcy and Workouts, which he taught there for 15 years as an adjunct. He has also taught as an adjunct professor at William and Mary and University of Richmond law schools and as a visiting professor at University of Arizona.

“Keith brings years of experience within the government to his pioneering development of clinical opportunities in tax law, and shares with students and colleagues his remarkably broad and detailed knowledge of tax law and policy, in theory and in practice,” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. “As a contributor to teaching, writing, policy making, and the improvement of actual law-in-practice, Keith is fabulous, and I will watch with delight as he grows the tax clinic here.”

Continue reading

Lessons Learned with the Federal Tax Clinic

By Jonathan Holbrook, J.D. ’16

When I began working in Professor Keith Fogg’s Federal Tax Clinic, I already knew that I was interested in tax and would be practicing in the field after graduation. But I did not know how the clinic would operate, nor exactly how my clinical experience would relate to future practice. I now move forward from a semester in the Tax Clinic with three major takeaways: a better idea of how part of the IRS functions; a set of practical lawyering skills; and an understanding of how to use those skills to help low-income taxpayers.

Working with the Federal Tax Clinic meant learning a great deal about how the IRS works, the pressures it is under, and how taxpayers interface with its system. The cases I worked on offered an opportunity to interact with IRS employees and to strategize about how best to persuade them of our client’s case. It was particularly interesting to discuss clinical work with other students in the Clinic. Together, we were able to put into practice what we learned in the Clinic’s accompanying class sessions.

As part of the Clinic we were also able to attend the Tax Court when it visited Boston. We observed and assisted as Professor Keith Fogg helped pro se taxpayers prepare their cases. It was a valuable opportunity to see cases at a different stage than we saw in our day-to-day clinical work, as well as to get a taste of tax litigation.

Working with the Federal Tax Clinic also helped me develop practical lawyering skills and, in particular, a sense of legal judgment. In my classes thus far, examinations have typically involved synthesizing a defined set of rules, then applying them to discrete scenarios. It is a relatively straightforward process to determine whether the answer is “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” In the real world, some clients’ issues match that model. With some base level of knowledge, it is possible to mechanically match the scenario up to the rules to produce the right answer. But the most interesting questions are those for which there is no preexisting, easily-accessible answer. In my experience with the clinic, I ran into many such situations. I suspect that is because: (1) low income taxpayers typically settle their cases with the IRS before litigation; and (2) low-income taxpayers have relatively few interested commentators producing secondary source materials relating to their problems. Thus, working with the Clinic meant often making judgment calls in filling out forms, drafting letters and offering advice. By the end of the semester, I had become much more comfortable making such judgment calls.

A final key aspect of the clinical experience was learning from the clients. Hearing about their multiple jobs, disabilities, split-up families, struggles to pay or receive child support and incomprehensible communications from the IRS made real what had previously only been a theoretical understanding of the challenges facing low-income taxpayers. Helping the Clinic’s clients work through their issues with the tax system and come into compliance felt very meaningful.

In sum, the fall semester was a very challenging and educational experience. The Clinic let me do more than I thought was possible. Whatever path my career takes, I’ve gained the skills to be a better lawyer and the tools to effectively help low-income taxpayers through pro bono work. I am grateful to the school and to Professor Fogg for making the Clinic possible.

Visiting Professor of Law T. Keith Fogg will teach new Federal Tax Clinic

The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs is excited to announce the new Federal Tax Clinic, which will be part of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain. The clinic will help defend the most vulnerable taxpayers while giving students the opportunity to learn tax practice and procedure.

Keith Fogg, Visiting Clinical Professor of Law, Federal Income Tax Clinic, Harvard Law School

Keith Fogg, Visiting Clinical Professor
of Law, Federal Income Tax Clinic,
Harvard Law School

The Federal Tax Clinic will begin in the 2015 fall semester and will be taught by Visiting Professor of Law, T. Keith Fogg.

Professor Fogg teaches at the Villanova University School of Law, where he also directs the Federal Tax Clinic. He is a national authority on tax procedure. He co-authors a blog with Professor Les Book entitled Procedurally Taxing, which focuses on current tax procedure issues and serves as the editor of the ABA Tax Section publication “Effectively Representing Your Client before the IRS.” Professor Fogg also authors the collection chapters in “IRS Practice and Procedure” created by Michael Saltzman and currently edited by Les Book.

He was chosen as the IRS Chief Counsel Robert H. Jackson National Attorney of the Year in 2007 and the ABA Tax Section Janet R. Spragens Pro Bono Award winner in 2015.  He is a past chair of the ABA Tax Section Pro Bono and Tax Clinics Committee and a current member of the ABA Tax Section governing council.

For more information, students can visit our Clinical Podcast webpage to listen to the information session about the new Federal Tax Clinic.