What is TAPS?
Through the newly created Tax Assistance Public Service (TAPS) endowment fund, the American Bar Association Section of Taxation seeks to provide stable, long-term funding for its tax-related public service programs for underserved taxpayers.
The Section of Taxation has set an endowment goal for TAPS of $5 million. The first $2.5 million of the TAPS endowment has been funded from the Section of Taxation reserves. Once the $5 million endowment goal is reached, the income from TAPS will be dedicated to support the Section’s tax-related public service programs.
The fund will primarily support the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship program. Developed in 2008, the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship program provides two-year fellowships for recent law school graduates working with non-profit organizations providing tax-related legal assistance to underserved communities. Fellows have provided representation to low-income taxpayers from Portland, Maine, to Pasco, Washington, and numerous communities in between. Several fellows have worked to help develop and advocate for policy changes to address the needs of low-income taxpayers.
In addition to the Christine A. Brunswick Public Service Fellowship program, the Section of Taxation supports a number of other programs and services that provide assistance to underserved taxpayers, including:
- Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic Assistance: The Section of Taxation publishes a manual to help low-income taxpayer clinics and others providing pro bono tax representation to understand how to effectively represent low-income taxpayers;
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA): Across the nation, volunteers help prepare basic income tax returns for low-income taxpayers and those with special needs such as non-English speaking persons, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
- Adopt-A-Base: Volunteers go through a training and certification process, and then train military personnel to prepare returns in their base’s VITA program. Volunteers can also be available to provide representation to members of the military who encounter tax controversies with the IRS or state tax authorities, or to provide tax advice on issues specific to their military service;
- Calendar Calls: Volunteers provide national coverage at U.S. Tax Court calendar calls and are available to consult with unrepresented taxpayers to advise them on court procedure, assist with settlement discussions, and in some cases, to take on their representation before the court;
- Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award: Established in 2002, the Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award recognizes individuals and law firms for outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities in tax law;
- Pro Bono Week: Each year, as part of the ABA’s National Celebration of Pro Bono Week, the Section of Taxation programs highlighting important topics in public interest tax law and ways tax attorneys can get involved;
- Tax Assistance to Disaster Victims: The Section of Taxation has provided pro bono tax assistance to victims of disasters, including in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. The Section of Taxation helped put in place a memorandum of understanding with the IRS and FEMA to establish a network of volunteers who are able to provide pro bono tax assistance to displaced Americans in times of need;
- Education and Research: The Section of Taxation has funded numerous educational programs and studies addressing important tax policy issues, including the needs of underserved taxpayers.
The Section of Taxation is seeking contributions from lawyers, law firms, foundations, and other organizations to fund the remaining portion. Click here for more information on how to donate.
For further information about these and other pro bono opportunities, contact Derek Wagner, Pro Bono Counsel for the Section of Taxation.