My name is Amber Allred and I am a native of Atlanta! I will soon be graduating from Morehouse School of Medicine and will then continue my training in Anesthesiology. I have also completed a Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy and Management from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. I have a great interest in health policy and patient advocacy. Before starting medical school, I worked as a project coordinator in several quality of life studies and really learned the importance of an interdisciplinary team-based approach to patient care. Although I had not directly worked with lawyers, I knew they served an important role. This was the catalyst for me to take the Law and Medicine elective course, during which fourth-year medical students work with Georgia State University law students in the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic.
by Hector Rojas, Spring 2017 Student Intern
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) and Broker-Dealer Task Force recently issued this Investor Alert to help investors identify excessive trading in their brokerage accounts and to educate investors about steps they should take if their brokerage firm notifies them of a high volume of trade activity in their accounts.
How do I know when there is excessive trading in my account?
In order to be alert of excessive trading in your accounts, you must first know how to identify excessive trading. To do this, you should review your account statements, trade confirmations, or online accounts. The SEC indicates that the following may constitute red flags that may indicate excessive trading:
By Becky Clapes, Spring 2017 Guest Blogger
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy has recently released an investor bulletin about alternative mutual funds. An alternative mutual fund, also known as an alt fund or liquid alt, is a non-traditional and complex investment. The SEC issued the alert to ensure that investors are aware of what these investments are and the risks that might come with them.
On April 18, 2017, Georgia State University honored the recipients of the George M. Sparks awards, which recognize Georgia State’s unsung heroes: faculty, staff, and students who exemplify a willingness to go the extra mile with good humor and perseverance. These were the characteristics of one of the university’s most highly regarded presidents, Dr. George McIntosh Sparks, who served from 1928 to 1957. The Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic is pleased to announce that its associate director, Bill Timm, received one of these awards. The following video pays tribute to Bill and explains why Bill is such a fitting honoree for the Sparks Award. Congratulations, Bill!
My name is Katie Morgan and I am a fourth-year medical student at Morehouse School of Medicine. I am from South Georgia and attended the University of Georgia, where I received my bachelor’s degree in chemistry. I started medical school with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. I recently matched into a combined internal medicine and pediatrics program at LSU Shreveport, where I will start in July!
By: La’ Nise Harrington Spring 2017 Student Intern
The Investor Advocacy Clinic has been much more than a professional learning experience. It has also accomplished personal goals. Before working in the clinic, I had the personal goal of increasing my financial literacy. I was like many investors and did not know the basics of investing. Before the clinic, I could balance a checkbook, maintain a good credit score and knew how to limit my debt. However, while my discipline with money was great, I did not know how to take action with it (investing). Investing was a hidden world to me, where only the elite or the wealthy knew of its secrets. The terms mutual funds, financial advisers, and dividends were vague concepts. The clinic never taught me what these words meant, and by that I mean no one sat me down and spoon fed definitions and examples to me.
Instead, the clinic taught me not to be scared to not know an answer, to be brave enough to go looking for answers and finally to trust myself with the answers. These skills apply not only to financial literacy, but to my development as a lawyer. These skills are invaluable in practice and life. It is always great to remember that the best way to help yourself and others is to have the willingness to do so and the knowledge of how to seek those answers. If you can accomplish those two things there is nothing in life or practice that you cannot figure out.
In her work at the Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, Tameka Lester, associate director and clinical assistant professor, assists low-income taxpayers who have controversies with the IRS, often because forms are filled out incorrectly or claims that aren’t valid. Though her daily job is a form of giving back, Lester wanted to do even more.
“I wanted to get involved in a community-based organization, something where I could use my knowledge and skills in tax law to continue to help others,” she said.
That desire led her to the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), which provides assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals, people with disabilities and limited English speakers who need help preparing their taxes.
“Good tax preparation is the key to avoiding controversies,” Lester said. “Through volunteering at VITA, I could assist an organization that feeds into the work we do in the clinic.”
On Lester’s first day volunteering, Olivia Alston, who runs the VITA program in Atlanta, expressed a need for someone to help train other volunteers. Lester worked with Alston to develop a program to assist volunteers in learning the tax knowledge needed to pass a required certification exam. Previously, volunteers had to educate themselves on tax law using materials provided by VITA.
To ensure the appropriate materials were being covered, Alston formed a VITA Advisory Board, naming Lester one of its members and the organizer and facilitator of the tax law training program.
In fall 2016, Lester facilitated three two-day workshops to prepare volunteers for the upcoming tax season, educating them about filing statuses, dependency, credits, the Affordable Care Act and more. The volunteers have varied backgrounds and range from college students to retirees, Lester said.
“Prior to Professor Lester’s involvement we taught more navigation of the software application. For inexperienced volunteers this was not the most effective approach,” Alston said. “Thanks to Professor Lester, we have a class dedicated to tax law and a separate class focused on navigation of the software. Students who have taken Professor Lester’s course rave about her effective and engaging teaching style. They also report feeling confident and well prepared to volunteer at a VITA site.
“Professor Lester has been a significant asset to our VITA initiative over the past two years.”
VITA helps to ensure families receive all the credits they are eligible for with a particular focus on the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which many families fail to claim, Alston said.
“The yearly filing of a tax return can be a costly endeavor for low-income people, and furthermore, many tax return preparers are seeking to maximize refunds to repeat business, often sacrificing accuracy to do so,” Lester said. “VITA addresses both of these issues—it is free and taxpayers can feel confident the return is prepared correctly because each of the volunteers must pass a certification exam.”
The United Way of Greater Atlanta receives a grant from the IRS to operate the program, and has 40 sites in the Atlanta metro area. The 2016 tax season concluded with 546 volunteers preparing 14,579 returns, which represents more than $14 million in refunds returned to hard working families, Alston said.
The Atlanta VITA coalition saved taxpayers $6.2 million in tax preparation fees last year; and VITA taxpayers served through the coalition received $5.6 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, Alston added.