Tameka Lester, associate director of the College of Law’s Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic and assistant clinical professor, will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight on Wednesday, Dec. 13, in Washington, D.C. The hearing will discuss Internal Revenue Service reform.
“It is such an honor to be asked to testify as Rep. John Lewis’ expert witness,” Lester said. “Ensuring that the voice of low income taxpayers is considered in IRS reform is essential.”
Lester will discuss the experience of Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) clients, particularly the issues encountered by taxpayers with engaging with the IRS. She will also propose opportunities for reform.
“Our work in the Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic guarantees low-income taxpayers have access to quality representation when engaging with the IRS regardless of their ability to pay,” Lester said. “The system of tax administration works best when individuals have access to representation, and access to representation should not be predicated solely on one’s ability to pay an attorney or accountant.”
Access to the IRS is also essential, Lester said. Many low-income taxpayers do not have the luxury of smart phones, Internet service or the flexibility to leave work and wait on hold for hours to speak with a representative of the IRS, Lester said.
“This makes it essential for the IRS to take an omni-channel approach to continue providing avenues for taxpayers to engage with the IRS online, over the phone, in person, and through the use of qualified representatives,” Lester said.
Improving online technology, including allowing more documents and correspondence to be transmitted electronically would be beneficial, Lester said. Funding should also be increased to hire more representatives to staff new and existing Taxpayers Assistance Centers, and those centers should begin accepting walk-in taxpayers again, Lester said.
LITCs could also help more taxpayers navigate the tax administration system if the statutory cap for funding is increased, Lester said.
“Many organizations, such as Georgia State University, have the capacity and interest in serving more taxpayers,” Lester said. “We could provide satellite campuses in underserved parts of the state; we simply need additional funding to equip those locations with attorneys, accountants, or enrolled agents.”
Advocating for low-income taxpayers is also an important function of LITCs, Lester said.
“We champion the IRS’s efforts to continue improving access to fair and just resolutions of tax related issues, and we look forward to continuing to provide input and suggestions on how this can be further improved for our clients.”