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From left, Chardea Murray, Three Rivers LITC director  and pro bono coordinator; Christopher Kinnaman, Postillion Law Group attorney; Leslie Morenus, Taxpayer Advocate Program analyst; Catherine O'Conner, Tax Defense Network attorney; Jessie Seaman, T...
Jax Daily Record Monday, May 30, 201612:00 PM EST

Help is on the way with "Tax Q&A"

by: Chardea Murray

With tax season behind us, some taxpayers are breathing sighs of relief.

While some are excited about pocketing tax refunds, other taxpayers are pulling out their hair wondering how they will satisfy their outstanding tax debt.

Those same taxpayers will more than likely wander over to the “walk-in” Jacksonville Tax Assistance Center located in the Charles E. Bennett Federal Building on Bay Street searching for legal help and answers.

The IRS established the centers to provide taxpayers the opportunity to meet with IRS representatives face-to-face to discuss their tax issue, submit information, and/or pay a bill.

However, the center will turn away many people due to the lack of resources and staff available to meet with taxpayers.

The center does not schedule appointments to meet with clients. Instead, IRS representatives meet with clients on a first-come, first-served basis.

As a result, wait lines reach unimaginable lengths as thousands of taxpayers visit the facility to address their tax concerns. The office is open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., but lines begin wrapping around the building as early as 7 a.m.

The TAC office sometimes stops accepting clients as early as 10 a.m. because they already reached the maximum number of clients they can serve in one day.

As an alternative, taxpayers can visit another center. However, the closest TAC office to Jacksonville is in Gainesville, which is about 70 miles away. And, once taxpayers arrive in Gainesville, there is no guarantee that they will meet with an IRS representative.

At the Gainesville office and other centers, taxpayers will still face long wait lines and they still may not meet with an IRS representative to discuss their tax issue.

Taxpayers often make repeated trips to their local TAC office in order to obtain assistance because traveling to an office in a different city will not increase their chances of getting the help they need to resolve their tax problem.

Fortunately, the Three Rivers Legal Services Low Income Tax Clinic is offering a resource that will help remedy this dilemma, which won’t involve long wait lines or require taxpayers to travel to another city. The clinic is joining forces with its Pro Bono Panel to bring the community “Tax Q&A,” a free clinic designed to address the TAC office long wait lines issue.

Three Rivers offers the clinic on the third Thursday of each month, where taxpayers can meet a tax practitioner to discuss their issue, receive a free consultation, obtain assistance with completing tax forms and/or get pre-screened to see if they qualify for case placement with the Three Rivers Low Income Tax Clinic.

Three Rivers welcomes tax practitioners including attorneys, certified public accounts and enrolled agents to join the panel to assist taxpayers seeking legal advice.

Other attorneys also are invited to participate in the clinic to assist with client intake using an instructional template that will guide volunteers throughout the entire process.

Three Rivers will be hosting the clinic at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid at 126 W. Adams St.

Attorneys interested in helping low-income taxpayers in distres, should contact LITC Director and Pro Bono Coordinator Chardea Murray at [email protected] or JALA Pro Bono Director Kathy Para at [email protected].

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