The sky-rocketing gas prices that gripped the nation in 2003 drove Jean Edes, a courier working as an independent contractor, to lose more money than he earned that year. With little knowledge of tax laws, Edes thought he did not need to file a tax return in 2003. Without any legal evidence of his financial losses filed with the IRS, the U.S. Tax Court summoned Edes to trial. To Edes advantage, a brigade of volunteer tax attorneys also were summoned to help taxpayers like Edes work through their tax problems with the IRS and tax court, thanks to a new pro-bono program from the Texas State Bar Association.
Tax attorney Elizabeth Copeland created the state-wide initiative to give tax attorneys an avenue for pro bono work and help pro se, or unrepresented, taxpayers with free legal advice with their tax problems. The relatively new program quickly caught the attention of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation, which recognized Copeland with its Janet Spragens Pro Bono award, presented each year to an attorney or law firm who demonstrates outstanding and sustained commitment to pro bono legal services.
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