John Marshall hosts clinics for low-income taxpayers

By Melissa Birks

For the first time, a Chicago law school will host an IRS-sponsored tax clinic for low-income taxpayers.

Called the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), the clinic will be held this Saturday and every Saturday through April 10 at The John Marshall Law School, 315 S. Plymouth. The sessions run from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m.

And the VITA program does more than help taxpayers. Through the IRS Web site (http://www.irs.gov/app/vita/index.html), lawyers, students, accountants and others interested in getting certification in preparing taxes can take e-learning courses that allow them to do so.

Juli Campagna, a John Marshall professor and tax attorney, will coordinate the clinics. John Marshall students approached her last fall about signing on as the faculty sponsor for the program, Campagna said. As someone fluent in Spanish and with experience at similar clinics, Campagna eagerly agreed to help bring VITA to Chicago.

“I was thrilled to be able to do it,” Campagna said. “I have worked at my church and library doing income tax returns, but I had not been involved with VITA before.”

Campagna expects to have six to eight students staffing each session; she will be on hand to oversee the work, and she also expects practitioners from the legal and accounting community to help. Everyone will donate their time.

“It’s all pro bono,” Campagna said, adding, “We got no grant to do this. This is totally for the service of low-income taxpayers.”

Taxpayers need only bring their W-2 forms and driver’s license or other identification; the clinicians will have all the other required paperwork at the site. E-filing will be available but not required. A Spanish speaker will be available to help if translation is needed. The clinics will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Campagna said 90 percent of the low-income taxpayers who attend can expect to receive some kind of rebate or credit. “Few will be paying,” she said.

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