When was your group founded?
Our group is a new pro bono project on campus this year! Although students have volunteered with our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) project as an ad hoc pro bono project through the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) over the past several years, PLFLP became an official TPIC student pro bono project in order to expand the project’s reach into the surrounding communities to more broadly serve Philadelphia residents and to create a network of interested students.
What is the mission of your project?
The Penn Law Financial Literacy Project aims to provide personal finance and tax assistance to those in need throughout Philadelphia, focusing on traditionally underserved, urban, and immigrant communities. We envision ourselves as a facilitator between the community and larger government-funded programs that provide financial advice, assistance, and support.
Can you explain your organization’s main programs?
Currently, we have two programs in place. Through our primary program, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) project, volunteers help low-income individuals, couples, and families file their federal and state income tax returns for free. This program is operated in conjunction with the Campaign for Working Families, a non-partisan community-based organization. Through our second program, the Community Financial Literacy Program (CFLP), we plan to have volunteers work with community partners to provide personal finance assistance and education programming to indigent persons, immigrants, and other underserved populations, as well as perform research for community organizations that are dedicated to promoting economic development in underserved communities.
What are some of your goals in the year ahead with regard to increasing tax preparation and financial literacy services to the community?
Since Penn Law students have been volunteering with VITA on an ad hoc basis before this pro bono project was created, our goals for the year were to build upon the existing scope of tax and financial services provided by our students. To achieve these goals, we offered more advanced levels of certification, required students to commit to a certain number of volunteer sessions during the course of the tax season, increased the number of students who volunteered at traditionally underserved sites around the city, and created a network for interested students that enabled them to travel together and share their experiences.
Do you offer any other events in addition to your pro bono work?
In addition to our traditional pro bono work, PLFLP also provides education and holds “lunch & learn” speaker series for students who are interested in tax law and policy. In the fall, we held an event featuring Professor Reed Shuldiner, who discussed the upcoming election, the proposed tax policies of President Obama and Governor Romney, the “47%” debate, and the current state of tax law in the United States. This spring, we are planning a speaker event featuring a Penn Law alumnus who is a private firm partner. He will offer advice and insight to students who may be interested in working in the field of tax law.