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LITC Student Roxy Araghi ’19 Targets Tax Court Jurisdiction to Order Refund in CDP Cases

Tuesday, October 23, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: UDC Law Staff
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Roxy Araghi
Roxy Araghi

Like most litigants in civil and administrative proceedings, individuals with active tax controversies have no right to court-appointed attorneys and the vast majority remains unable to afford private counsel. While the intervention of the UDC Law Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) and other pro bono programs can make a critical difference in clients’ financial stability, restrictive case law remains a considerable barrier to relief.

In an effort to broaden available remedies for low-income taxpayers, clinic student Roxy Araghi, ’19, authored an amicus brief in McLane v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2018-149, in a much-anticipated challenge to the Tax Court’s limited view of its own jurisdiction under Greene-Thapedi to determine a refund in a collection due process (CDP) case. While carrying a regular clinic caseload, Araghi penned the brief on behalf of the clinic in support of pro se petitioner Brian McLane. McLane sought judicial review of a 2008 tax issue and despite the agency’s concession that he had no tax liability for the period in question, the IRS refused to refund McLane’s 2008 overpayment.

In her brief in support of McLane, Araghi sought to distinguish the petitioner’s case from the unique set of facts governing Greene-Thapedi, a case that many court-watchers have questioned since it was decided in 2008. Ultimately, on Sept. 11 of this year, the Tax Court ruled in a nearly 40 page opinion that it lacked jurisdiction to determine a refund in the CDP case. McLane is currently considering an appeal to the Fourth Circuit.

Carlton M. Smith, who will serve as Acting Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at Harvard Law School for Spring 2019, and assisted on the clinic brief, told Tax Notes Today, “I’m sure any such appeal would attract one or more amicus briefs in his support.” When asked for further comment, Smith noted that “the high quality of Roxy's argumentation in the brief no doubt led the Tax Court judge to write such a lengthy opinion in response thereto.”

For her part, Araghi described the writing project as "the peak of my law school experience.” “I am extremely grateful to all of my professors, who taught me the skills and gave me the confidence I needed,” she said. “Drafting this amicus brief, though challenging and frustrating at times, was a truly unique experience and I would do it all over again."

The amicus brief represents just one segment of Tax Clinic students’ expansive efforts on behalf of District taxpayers this year. Students in the clinic – which is on hiatus for the 2018-19 academic year while Director Jacqueline Lainez Flanagan serves as Visiting Professor at American University – gain hands-on experience representing low-income District residents before the IRS, D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, and U.S. Tax Court. Students represent clients in a variety of tax-related matters including Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) examinations and challenge the denial of various credits, including family-based credits and social benefits administered through the Tax Code.

This past year the clinic also partnered with Harvard’s Federal Tax Clinic on a national, year-long Tax Court Research Project (TCRP) pilot intended to connect unrepresented taxpayers across the U.S. with a dozen participating LITCs. At the conclusion of the yearlong pilot, Dee Dee Gowan, the LITC Director at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis, commented: “Thanks to the information you provided us, this is by far the most productive Tax Court Calendar Call we have experienced in the 14 years I’ve been at the clinic.” The TCRP pilot served as a “pilot within a pilot” insofar as Professor Lainez Flanagan incorporated 1L students from her Contracts II course to conduct research on the project as part of their Community Service Program work. This led to a burgeoning interest in tax among students like Aditi Ramesh, ’20, who, following her TCRP work, went on to work as a legal intern at the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue this summer.

This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of Clinic Notes, the UDC Law Clinical and Experiential Program newsletter available here.


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