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They got your tax help



HELP AND TAXES :  If you qualify as low-income, trained Cal Poly students are ready to help you sort out your taxes. - PHOTO BY HENRY BRUINGTON
  • HELP AND TAXES : If you qualify as low-income, trained Cal Poly students are ready to help you sort out your taxes.
As of 2010, a student-run program at Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly has been providing the community with valuable tax knowledge. The Cal Poly Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) offers free accounting help to anyone involved in a tax controversy with the IRS.

Funded by a grant received by the IRS, the LITC works directly with them and tax lawyers to create payment plans or appeal for payment reduction for eligible candidates. Qualifications for free services are determined on a case-by-case basis, varying by income and household size. The program also provides education to taxpayers who speak English as a second language.

“Basically, we bring our accounting skills to the table to help out with the law side of things,” said Sam Jacques, an accounting student and paid student employee for the LITC.

Although Jacques holds a paid position, most tax counselors are student volunteers and are working to fulfill senior project requirements. While the students aren’t legal representatives of clients who use their services, LITC executive director and law lecturer Elisabeth Sperow represents clients along with a pro bono lawyer in Federal Tax Court.

Many clients with a wide range of controversies with the IRS, from failures to file prior tax returns to tax audits, have sought accounting help with these trained students who have been able to give guidance in the right direction. Because low-income taw clinics work directly with the IRS, they help set up offers and can compromise to set up reasonable payments, often for a lesser amount. The Cal Poly LITC represents clients mostly from Southern Monterey, SLO, and Northern Santa Barbara Counties, but gives accounting advice to people from all over California.

“Some of our clients are as far north as San Francisco,” Jacques said. “Though there are other tax clinics, we’re not the only one; at the moment we are the only low-income tax clinic that goes to Federal Tax Court that is represented by undergrad accounting students. Most other low-income tax clinics are actually second-year law students, so we’re kind of rare in that sense.”

The level of experience and expertise of these undergraduate advisors is a reflection of the Cal Poly motto: Learn by doing. Low-income community members are suggested to seek help from LITC for any issue right away. Waiting, Jacques said, is where people start to get in over their heads. Letting the LITC handle your IRS issues can save participants time and unnecessary stress.

“The IRS knows that we know what we’re doing, and we have a tendency to provide results,” Jacques added about the program. Being able to be help those in need makes working for the LITC a mutually beneficial experience.

“It is something I find a lot of rewards in, at least personally,” Jacques said. “It’s not the most lucrative of careers, but as far as making a difference and feeling good about yourself, it’s definitely pretty substantial.”

The Cal Poly Low Income Tax Clinic is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays. For more information on the LITC, visit or call 877-318-6772.


Fast fact

The SLO Wind Orchestra will be hosting a fundraiser at the Madonna Inn on April 12. The event will correspond with a wine raffle, the winner claiming more than 100 bottles of wine valued at more than $2,000. The extensive wine selection, from first-class wines to newer, respectable labels, has been rated by two local wine experts and enthusiasts, Archie McLaren and Mike Botwin. The winner of the wine raffle will also receive two handmade chairs crafted by two SLO Winds members. For more information about the event, contact


Intern Tally Meyers compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to


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