Carley Epple

When it comes to tax conflicts, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic volunteer Megan Van Ruler wants taxpayers to know that “one mistake isn’t going to define them.”

Van Ruler, a business administration senior, is one of the 15 Cal Poly students providing free tax dispute services for their class, Senior Project: Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (BUS 463).

The Cal Poly Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) provides low-income clients involved in tax disputes with representation before the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court. The LITC was designed to provide undergraduate and graduate accounting students with hands-on experience in their professional fields.

Each quarter, around 15 accounting students join LITC and are assigned two clients each, spending the following ten weeks assisting these clients through the legal stages of resolving tax conflicts.

To qualify for Cal Poly’s LITC services, people must make less than $50,000 a year and owe the IRS taxes. The organization also helps with California state taxes. Services are offered in both Spanish and English and are available for any U.S. taxpayer.

Cal Poly’s LITC is one of many low-income tax clinics across U.S. college campuses and is supervised under the Orfalea College of Business faculty. Founded on Cal Poly’s campus in 2010, the LITC is made possible by Chevron Corporation and a grant from the Internal Revenue Taxpayer Advocate Service.

LITC student volunteer and business accounting senior Ava Dorviller says that tax laws were written to favor wealthy people, so the LITC helps underprivileged people understand these laws and know their rights.

Julia Boersma, a graduate taxation student, said that her classes have taught her mainly how to minimize tax liabilities for those who can afford the services of an accounting firm, but working at the LITC provided an entirely new perspective.

“We tend to have an important role in our client’s lives by reducing tax liability, but we also give them more of an understanding of what’s happening with their tax situation and what they need to do to get financial independence in their life,” Boersma said.

Business accounting and finance senior Ryan Schmidt, a LITC volunteer, said that he was drawn to the senior project because of the possibility for such positive impacts within the organization.

“You can see the tangible outcomes,” Schmidt said. “We are helping people live a better life and meet the bills a little more.”

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