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Bankrate's 2010 Tax Guide
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Help available for low-income taxpayers

Personnel and volunteers at these locations are available to represent low-income taxpayers before the IRS in audit, appeals and collection issues and other federal tax litigation for free or for a nominal charge.

Clinics target neediest taxpayers

To get the federal cash, a clinic must provide legal assistance to low-income taxpayers who are disputing an IRS ruling. A clinic that provides non-English-speaking taxpayers advice and guidance on their tax rights and responsibilities also is eligible for the federal money.

The clinics may be run by tax-exempt organizations or by law, business or accounting schools whose students represent citizens in tax disputes. The amount of tax in question must be less than $50,000 and a clinic cannot charge more than a nominal fee for its services.

Grant guidelines also require that at least 90 percent of a clinic's patrons meet income limits. For the 2008 grant year cycle, those limits were:

Guideline limits
Size of familyEarning no more than
1 person$26,000
2 persons$35,000
3 persons$44,000
4 persons$53,000
5 persons$62,000
Families with more than five members should add $8,500 per person.
Separate income guidelines are used for residents of Alaska and Hawaii.

Interest in program grows

The IRS reports that interest in the low-income taxpayer clinic, or LITC, program continues to grow. When the effort began in 1999, only $1.5 million was granted.

For the 2008 grant cycle, the IRS awarded almost $9 million in matching LITC grants to 154 organizations representing all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

The IRS publishes on its Web site a list of the current clinics. You also can use the agency's interactive map to find a clinic in your area.

Both the text list and map resource provide details on the type of services the clinic offers, the languages that are spoken there and a local phone number that you can call for more information and location specifics.

While the clinics are welcomed by taxpayers who could not otherwise obtain help in sorting out tax problems, clinic sponsors say that their tax-aid volunteers also benefit from the program. A General Accounting Office study found that at tax clinics affiliated with law schools or graduate accounting and business programs, participating students gain educational and practical experience by dealing with real-life clients and preparing cases.

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