LEGAL AID OF WESTERN MICHIGAN TO LAUNCH LOW INCOME TAXPAYER CLINIC
A new Western Michigan Low Income Taxpayer Clinic at Legal Aid of Western Michigan will provide legal assistance to low income taxpayers in their problems with the IRS.
According to Executive Director Juan Salazar, Legal Aid has seen an increase in the need for this type of assistance, “in the old days, most of our clients were not employed. However, a very high percentage of our clients are employed—albeit in low paying jobs—and run into problems with income taxes. Our clients depend on their refunds and Earned Income Tax Credit money and it can be a huge problem when they don’t receive them.”
Legal Aid serves low income persons in 17 counties in Western Michigan in a wide range of civil legal problems involving family, housing, consumer and income issues. Attorney Kathleen Allen, who will manage the program, says that, in recent years, Legal Aid found that many clients in those cases will also have a tax problem coming out of a divorce or foreclosure. She said that this grant will allow Legal Aid to hire another full-time attorney to handle just the tax cases.
“Legal Aid will not be preparing tax returns”, Ms. Allen said, “There are VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) clinics in most places where low income individuals can get help. Our plan is to work with the VITA clinics and other tax preparers. We really see this as building on existing community resources. We will be reaching out to the VITA clinics and other community agencies about the kinds of cases that we can do and letting them know how to refer people to us.”
The Western Michigan Low Income Taxpayer Clinic does have income guidelines. Households with income up to 250% of the poverty level* may be eligible.
In addition to referrals from tax preparers, Legal Aid does expect that people will contact the program directly at 888-783-8190 or 616-774-0672.