The Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic is one of only three in the state of Indiana. Since 2004, staff attorney Dee Dee Gowan has served as its director. The LITC stands in the gap for those low-income people who may have fallen behind on their taxes for a plethora of different reasons. Dee Dee says that the LITC uses financial analysis to determine if clients who have been hit with a levy by the IRS can afford to pay. If they cannot, a client is considered to be in a “currently not collectable” status and the levy is stopped until such a time that the client is able to pay. Dee Dee says that many clients do not know that such an option even exists if they are struggling financially and may therefore end up making monthly payments to the IRS that guts their finances, leaving them unable to afford housing or food. Or else they may simply try to ignore the problem for years and years out of fear. Because of this, in addition to sorting out tax liabilities, Dee Dee also seeks to educate her clients on their rights and the law.
Another of the LITC staff, Patrick Thomas, tells the story of a man who went to jail for mortgage fraud. After he was released from prison, he had a mistaken tax liability of $819,000. The monthly payment he was making did not even cover the interest. When he came to our office, he was deeply repentant of his past crimes and was making the monthly payments to the IRS to show good faith, but knew the situation was untenable. The LITC staff reviewed his case and determined that the tax liability he was said to owe was actually erroneous because the debt was canceled while he was in prison. Thus, the Clinic was able to file an insolvency exclusion on his behalf. Just days ago, the IRS responded and said that they agreed with the return the Clinic filed. The faulty liability was zeroed out.
For the LITC staff, all of the phone calls and paperwork are necessarily infused with an abiding care. This quality is especially essential because clients may have made mistakes in the past that have caused the tax liabilities they now face or they may have waited for a very long time to ask for help. The Clinic’s duty in these moments is clear. Dee Dee says, “Compassion is loving others … I’ve learned one of the most important things is to just hear someone’s story. To stop, put your pencil down, because life is so busy and hard and complicated that people don’t give each other time.” These encounters become a powerful opportunity for Dee Dee to express God’s love. She explains, “The legal problem they bring to us … loving them through that is the vehicle to pray God’s love, to speak God’s deep love into someone’s life, and through helping them solve the legal problem you get a little bit vulnerable and a little bit closer to the person.” And so, by assisting clients like the repentant man above, the LITC expresses on a daily basis the living and active power and compassion of the Lord.