Law students volunteer to help area residents file their taxes | UC Hastings Law

Student volunteers include, clockwise from left: Joe Martin, Patrick Micu, Megan Gregory, Rosamaria Cavalho and Anastasia Gomez.

As the April national tax filing deadline draws near, UC Hastings law students are doing their part to help low-income taxpayers.

Greeting clients, answering questions, and helping them complete tax returns, Hastings students work with low-income taxpayers in the San Francisco area through the VITA program, in which the school has been a part. more than a decade.

The VITA program assists local taxpayers with their federal and California state tax returns at no cost to the client. Hastings law students also help them verify their information, including sources of income, dependent status and other information. Their work is supervised by Amy Spivey, a law professor at UC Hastings.

“Our main job is to help tax preparers and quality examiners with substantive tax law questions, or with problems they face while using tax software,” said student Patrick Micu’ 23, a student site coordinator overseeing the VITA program. “We also act as intake, tax preparers and quality reviewers when circumstances require and will oversee the final stages of each tax return.”

Organizers say the program gives law students hands-on experience helping vulnerable clients who lack the resources to pay for tax preparation services, while learning some basic tax laws. “Students learn important and transferable skills by participating in VITA, including interviewing and advising clients, legal research, and practical application of the law in preparing returns,” Spivey said. “Students this semester really appreciated the opportunity to meet clients in person, a first for many students due to the pandemic.”

UC Hastings VITA program has been listed as one of the sources of tax relief in the San Francisco area.

Participating students say not only do they feel good helping clients, but it gives them valuable experience for future legal careers. “It helped me find a tax-focused summer internship for 2021 and 2022,” Micu said. “It was the most talked about part of my resume in all my interviews.”

“VITA has been a fantastic opportunity for me, especially in my first year, to gain hands-on experience working directly with clients and discussing complex legal issues with people who don’t have a legal background,” Megan added. Gregory ’23, another student site coordinator for VITA. “It helped me learn to prioritize my questions and focus on what really matters to the problem at hand.”

Micu and Gregory worked as site coordinators for the VITA project in Hastings this year, having taken part in the virtual VITA program in spring 2021. This means they train other student volunteers and spread the word to student organisations. and others about this experiential learning. opportunity.

Both students said volunteering with the tax program helped prepare them for their legal careers. “As well as giving students the opportunity to get a taste of the practical, experiential learning courses at Hastings develop students’ ability to deal with real-life issues and problems faced by students. lawyers face on a daily basis,” says Micu. Gregory added: “Through the experiential tax programs, I have learned a lot about my own values, both personal and professional, and it has clarified the type of work I want to do and the type of environment in which I want do it. . “