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Published:   |   Last Updated: April 23, 2024

National Volunteer Week: Being a Hero in Your Community

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Volunteers play a vital role in our tax communities, especially for the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Program and the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP).

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics

This week, we celebrate National Volunteer Week to recognize and thank those who give their time to serve their communities, assist taxpayers in need, and provide support for individuals who may not be familiar with the tax system.

At LITCs, volunteers help answer phones, take applications, translate tax education materials, interpret at local education events, present tax talks, advocate for taxpayers with the IRS, and participate in pre-trial settlement days and calendar calls for the U.S. Tax Court on behalf of numerous individuals. During my term as the National Taxpayer Advocate, it has been heartwarming to see so many of the students who took part in a clinic for academic credit at a law or business school continue to volunteer at LITCs after they complete the clinical course. Giving back and helping others is rewarding and gratifying.

Throughout the country, volunteer attorneys, certified public accountants, and enrolled agents have stepped up to help LITCs expand their reach by taking on cases pro bono that the clinic does not have the staff to handle. Volunteers are essential in protecting taxpayer rights by enabling their ability to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard, ensuring individuals only pay the amount of tax due, and helping safeguard the right to a fair and just tax system. These volunteers make a difference!

As spotlighted in our 2023 Program Report, volunteers across the country donated 35,996 hours to LITCs in 2022.

LITC Volunteers by Type for Grant Year 2022

621 Attorneys, 270 Students, 68 Other, 70 CPAs, 55 EAs, and 52 Interpreters

One of the 621 attorneys who gave their time to LITC in 2022, Jose Baron, Director of Tax Latin America at Trane Technologies, recently spoke about his experience volunteering with Legal Services of Greater Miami LITC.

“Volunteering is a blessing for me. It makes me feel good, balances out my karma, and helps me pay it forward, so to speak,” said Jose.

While Jose is experienced in international tax, he was less familiar with the types of tax matters that LITCs see. Clinic Director Mary Ann David not only imparted her expertise but Jose shared “she is smart, funny, and a great human being” creating a positive volunteer experience. With his new found skills, Jose is now helping taxpayers requesting Innocent Spouse and Equitable Relief before both the IRS and in court.

Jose volunteers more than just his legal skills; as a Colombian, he speaks Spanish and helps Spanish-speaking taxpayers navigate their tax situations. He shared that his volunteer time has opened his eyes to the potentially devastating tax consequences that can follow a divorce or the death of a spouse. He knows that he is making a real difference for the people he helps.

Jose is just one of many volunteers who have made a difference in the lives of many individuals and families. We are grateful for Jose and the incredible volunteers who assist the LITCs and their communities throughout the country.


The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, a Federal Advisory Committee to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), helps to identify tax issues of importance to taxpayers and to provide a taxpayer perspective to the IRS on key programs, products, and services. TAP is a unique community-based committee comprised of members from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who possess a sense of civic duty, patriotism, and belief in an effective and well-regarded taxation system. The 75 members show incredible dedication by volunteering between 200-300 hours each year during their three-year term.

Michelle Brookens is the National Vice Chair of TAP. She is on her second three-year term as a volunteer, yes you read that correctly – her second term. In fact, after she completed her first three years she chose to come back and serve a second term. Michelle lives in Illinois and has a wide variety of professional experience from teacher to Deputy Clerk of Court, to Business Services & Program Compliance Specialist for Land of Lincoln Workforce Alliance.

Notably, like many within TAP, Michelle is not a tax professional. She found TAP while looking through postings on USA Jobs. The position looked interesting, and she felt strongly about her past experience trying to file tax returns as a newly single taxpayer.

“I found it infuriating to have so many pages of instructions for a one-page form,” said Michelle. She thought about the many other taxpayers who couldn’t afford an attorney or accountant to help them with the process, and decided this was her opportunity to make a difference.

Michelle finds it rewarding to see a recommendation to improve the IRS go from inception, through the committee process, into the final report, and most rewarding –seeing the TAP team’s efforts result in actual changes to improve the tax system for taxpayers like developing a newly simplified IRS form. In her second term she leveraged her passion for outreach to the areas of the country that are not currently represented by a TAP member.

Michelle shared that serving on TAP “can help dispel common misconceptions about the IRS and help the average person understand that they can have a say in making things better.” She is especially interested in reaching students and encouraging them to apply to be a TAP member. Michelle knows that serving as a TAP member is a great experience, “not because it would look good on a resume but because they can make a difference.”

Let’s Make a Difference Together!

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity and interested in making a difference, consider joining us with one of these two great opportunities.

Volunteer with an LITC or keep an eye out for the next opportunity to join TAP.

Whether you’re giving your time, expertise, or making a financial contribution, you can help others. You can make a difference even if you don’t have a clinic near you. Distance doesn’t hinder our ability to accomplish great things or to impact lives.

Thank you to all those volunteers who make our communities better, inspire us to follow in their footsteps, and remind us that both small or large acts of service have a ripple effect. We celebrate you this week!

Read the past NTA Blogs

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the National Taxpayer Advocate. The National Taxpayer Advocate presents an independent taxpayer perspective that does not necessarily reflect the position of the IRS, the Treasury Department, or the Office of Management and Budget.

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