OXFORD, Miss. – Students participating this semester in the University of Mississippi School of Law‘s tax practicum clinical program are gaining real-world experience while assisting members of the Oxford community with their taxes.
Every Tuesday and Thursday through April 9, law students manage and staff an IRS-funded Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library to file taxes for Oxford residents who have a combined household income of $55,000 or less. The program operates from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Law professor Donna Davis oversees the clinic of 13 students.
“Each year, our exceptional students assist residents and help our local community through this needed service,” Davis said. “This clinic requires dedication and commitment from our students, but they are rewarded with beneficial, practical skills.
“It’s so rewarding as a professor to see my students apply and explain what they learn in the classroom.”
The clinic focuses on assisting low-income clients and international students who may need additional assistance with their tax forms. Residents attending the clinic should bring a photo ID, Social Security card and their previous year’s tax documents. The law students will interview each client before helping with their state and federal taxes.
Last year, student preparers filed more than 350 returns for residents in and around Oxford.
Law students Katie Janusz and Michael Williams, who worked as student preparers last year, are serving as site coordinators for the clinic. They are responsible for making sure all volunteers are trained and accredited, while also reviewing returns prepared by other students.
Student volunteers are certified at an advanced level to prepare returns through their tax practicum clinic. They also gained additional certification to handle more complex returns, including international and foreign student filings, military and the involvement of health savings accounts.
“Coordinating the tax clinic can be challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding,” said Williams, a third-year student from Richland. “We have people from the community who line up and wait for our services as early as noon to ensure they are able to be seen.
“Our team works tirelessly, often staying long past our 6:30 closing time, to ensure that any tax-related issue we are able to resolve is taken care of.”
Williams earned his undergraduate degree in accountancy with a minor in finance from UM. He has a passion for tax law and plans to pursue a Master of Laws in tax law upon graduation.
Janusz, a third-year law student from New Berlin, Wisconsin, originally participated in the clinic to learn how to effectively communicate with clients and better serve their needs.
“The practicum was a great way to get hands-on experience,” she said. “I wanted to participate again because I realized what a necessary service this is to the community, and I really enjoy getting to interact with the clients.”
Though the clinic has been back in operation only a short time, Janusz said she has seen several return clients from last year.
“I really enjoy developing a relationship with our clients,” she said.
For more information about the clinical programs at the School of Law, visit https://law.olemiss.edu/.