Financial Literacy Project (FLP)
The Penn Law Financial Literacy Project (FLP) is one of the law school’s newest pro bono organizations, having only been officially organized as of the 2012-2013 academic year. Nonetheless, with over seventy members recruited in FLP’s first year, it has quickly grown into one of the most popular pro bono groups on the Toll Public Interest Center roster. In the same year, FLP volunteers contributed in gross over 1400 hours in tax-assistance service to Philadelphia-based tax service sites!
FLP operates as the Penn Law branch of the ABA-accredited Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and further cooperates with two major Philadelphia tax-assistance non-profits: The Campaign for Working Families (CWF), which manages numerous tax-assistance sites around the Philadelphia metropolitan region, and Ceiba, a Latino-community coalition providing tax services to minority groups in the North Philadelphia area. In partnership with both CWF and Ceiba, FLP members provide various services, all of which revolve around FLP’s central tenet of promulgating greater financial awareness and competency to Philadelphia residents.
During the fall semester, FLP members are invited to attend lunch-and-learn events structured to afford a doctrinal underpinning to the real-world tax service conducted more intensively in the spring semester. Additionally, FLP members are offered opportunities to file Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) applications and past-due tax returns throughout the fall semester. FLP is presently focused on expanding its fall program to further include educational outreach at Philadelphia community centers, which will broaden the scope of the services from which FLP members can choose in meeting their volunteer requirements.
Tax season begins during the spring semester, for which reason FLP members generally perform the bulk of their pro bono contributions between February and early April. In preparation for tax season, FLP has coordinated with CWF to arrange beginning, intermediate, and advanced tax-certification training in the weeks before tax season takes off. No background in finance is necessary to complete tax return certification training at any level, and hours accrued during these training lectures will also count toward meeting the FLP volunteer requirements. Once trainings are completed, FLP members are committed to attending five volunteer sessions at either CWF or Ceiba sites around Philadelphia. During these, FLP members with basic training can expect to file personal tax returns for resident low-income families; members with intermediate and advanced training take on the further responsibility of auditing the work of other volunteers for accuracy, in addition to other clients’ ITINs and returns.
With the anticipated launch of a community outreach counterpart to FLPs income tax service work, FLP tables a diverse and comprehensive range of services from which members can select. In conjunction with the flexibility members have in scheduling their spring semester tax sessions, FLP supports one of the most member-oriented and versatile pro bono programs offered at Penn Law.