IIT Chicago-Kent's transformed Tax Clinic to provide services to middle-income taxpayers and small businesses

Monday, December 12, 2011
Professor Jonathan Decatorsmith oversees the law school's Tax Clinic in the Chicago-Kent Law Offices.
Professor Jonathan Decatorsmith oversees the law school's Tax Clinic in the Chicago-Kent Law Offices.

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law's Tax Clinic will shift its focus to provide a variety of legal services to middle-income and small-business taxpayers effective January 2012. Focusing on three practice areas, the clinic will specialize in Tax Court representation, IRS collection-related services, and planning and transaction-related tax advice. The clinic will assist middle-income and small-business taxpayers who do not qualify for low-income tax-clinic services, yet are not able to afford the hourly rates of traditional law firms.

"Our tax clinic has long been recognized as one of the preeminent tax clinics in the country," said IIT Chicago-Kent clinical professor Jonathan Decatorsmith, who oversees the clinic. "We were one of the first organizations to qualify for a matching grant under the IRS' Low Income Taxpayer program in 1998, and for the past 13 years our clinic has served solely indigent and very low-income taxpayers in a pro bono capacity."

"Recognizing the exploding demand by middle-income and small-business taxpayers for ethical and aggressive representation and transactional advice, the Tax Clinic has reinvented itself to provide superior services at affordable fees to this underserved segment of the population," said Professor Decatorsmith. "In addition, we will provide assistance to taxpayers speaking Spanish and Mandarin."

The Tax Clinic is a full-service tax controversy and transaction practice housed in the IIT Chicago-Kent Law Offices as part of the school's clinical education program. Under the direct supervision of Professor Jonathan Decatorsmith, Chicago-Kent students will interview and counsel clients, conduct factual investigations and legal research, develop case strategies, prepare tax returns, and help in the litigation. The clinic will charge modest, mostly flat fees on a sliding-scale basis.

Professor Decatorsmith, a member of IIT Chicago-Kent's clinical faculty since 2000, also teaches courses in federal tax practice and procedure, international business transactions, estates and trusts, tax fraud, and other topics. Professor Decatorsmith has extensive experience as a senior trial attorney and internal instructor with the IRS, and as a civil litigator and tax specialist in private practice. He has tried more than 35 cases before the United States Tax Court.

Professor Decatorsmith is joined by legal assistant Ni Sha, who will primarily coordinate the clinic's pro bono and community service outreach activities. Ms. Ni brings to the practice a wealth of experience in real estate, business transactions, and civil litigation, including more than a dozen years as an attorney in Beijing, China. Ni received her LL.M. degree from IIT Chicago-Kent in 2011 and is a member of the New York State Bar.

Among its services, the clinic will

  • represent taxpayers who are being audited by the IRS and Illinois Department of Revenue examination functions in connection with their individual or business income or employment tax liabilities;
  • assist taxpayers who receive levy notices or notices of federal or state tax liens, and prepare Offers in Compromise, installment agreements, and requests for Currently Not Collectible status;
  • represent taxpayers in cases before the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. District Court, as well as before the Illinois Department of Revenue and the IRS Appeals Division (including Collection Due Process hearings);
  • help taxpayers with innocent spouse relief requests, identity theft, penalty abatements, and earned income tax credit issues;
  • prepare all federal and state individual and business tax returns, including payroll, estate, trust, and entity returns; and
  • provide ethical, aggressive planning strategies, and can assist clients with obtaining a tax-exempt status for their charitable organization or an advance determination from the IRS for proposed business transactions.

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, a private, Ph.D.-granting institution. The Chicago-Kent Law Offices, the nation's first fee-generating law school clinic, has practice areas in employment discrimination and civil rights litigation, family law, health and disability law, immigration law, and criminal defense. The Law Offices also provides legal services through its Center for Open Government and Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution program at no cost.

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