VITA Clinic gets 100 percent rating

The John Marshall Law School’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA/TCE) program was given a 100 percent rating this year by a representative of the Internal Revenue Service during an annual visit to the program.

John Marshall students from the Center for Tax Law & Employee Benefits have partnered with the IRS since January 2010 to offer the free tax filing service to qualified individuals. The program supervisor is Adjunct Professor Robert McKenzie, who worked with students in preparatory sessions so that they could pass the required online test to be certified as tax preparers.

During a February visit, Sandra Angel, the IRS tax consultant for the Chicago territory, evaluated the clinic’s operation for IRS quality site requirements. In filing her report, Angel told McKenzie that the John Marshall program met the standards at 100 percent. Angel said she observed the clients were 100 percent engaged with the volunteer students, and said that that type of rapport between student and client is what warrants John Marshall’s 80 percent client return rate each year.

“Bob has been an outstanding mentor and teacher for our students. I can’t thank him enough for his enthusiasm and hard work during a busy tax season, as well as the time he has spent assisting our student volunteers,” said Kennedy. “I’m sorry to say this is his last year working with VITA, but I hope he knows how appreciative we are of everything he’s done,” said Professor Kathryn Kennedy, director of the Center.

McKenzie has been so involved in the program that he prepared a YouTube video featuring a taxpayer working with a John Marshall student. Kennedy said the video can be used to recruit new volunteers each year.

“VITA has proved to be a wonderful experience for our students. They are quick to tell me that the skills they have developed during their time at the clinic will be invaluable in their careers, especially learning how to do an in-take interview, solicit proper documentation from the client and then prepare a tax return for the client’s review.”

Kennedy said the students are especially enthusiastic when their work “pays off” with tax refunds, especially for the low-income and elderly clients.

“Such pro bono activity is something I’m sure they’ll continue to do as they become members of the larger bar community,” she added.

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