In the face of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, UW Law’s Federal Tax Clinic students went above and beyond for clients in what turned out to be a highly productive year for the clinic.

In 2020 through the work of students and volunteer attorneys, the clinic worked a total of 271 cases, saving taxpayers $818,763 and procuring refunds of $125,728.

“The students have done amazing work all while operating out of their homes,” Federal Tax Clinic Managing Director John Clynch says. “They’ve established a really good rapport with their clients, which is difficult to do right now, and I know they are putting in so much more time than just their office hours if they were physically here at the clinic.”

UW Law’s Federal Tax Clinic helps low-income individuals throughout most of Washington resolve disputes with the Internal Revenue Service. The clinic offers this assistance as a public service and as a means of training law students in tax practice.

This past year, the clinic worked on a total of 527 separate issues, which included assisting taxpayers in recovering their stimulus payments. In addition to students receiving credit and work-study, 72 volunteer attorneys, students, CPAs and interpreters worked on cases during the year.

Besides assisting taxpayers as clients, the clinic consulted with over 100 taxpayers and was also responsible for providing education and outreach to the community. The clinic remained open all year, which was in contrast to the prolonged shutdowns that occurred at the IRS that found students often working for days to get through to the department.

Still, students pushed through the unique challenges of the year, and it paid off in big ways for clients.

Clynch says he isn’t surprised: Every year, he continues to be inspired by the commitment and work ethic of each class of students who join the clinic.

“I've never had a year where I thought, ‘You know, maybe the students aren't as hard working as a year before’ — that’s never been the case. Every year I'm so impressed with them.” Clynch says.

Clynch will be stepping down as managing director in July 2020. He first became involved with the clinic as a student in 2005 when he returned to UW Law to get his Master in Tax Law.

In 2009, he became a staff attorney, and in 2012 he took over as the Federal Tax Clinic’s managing director. UW Law Professor Scott Schumacher, the clinic’s former director, served as an invaluable advisor, Clynch says.

“I am so fortunate to have Scott as my friend and mentor,” he says. “Everything I know and have accomplished is due to Scott.”

Clynch, a former public defender, will remain teaching at the law school in the areas of evidence and criminal law while leaving a legacy of distinguished leadership at the Federal Tax Clinic.

“I've loved my experience at the clinic, and it's been amazing to work with the students,” Clynch says. “The issues we deal with are really very interesting. The clients are all low-income clients with a lot of other things going on in their lives, and I applaud them for coming to us and allowing the students to work on their cases.

“I'm humbled by the students who come and work in the clinic because they're so dedicated, and even though they're getting credit, they're doing so much more and putting in a ton of work.”