The Initial Telephone Call

When a new case is assigned, the student attorney will be given an Intake Sheet that has been completed by Clinic personnel during the prospective client’s first telephone call to the Clinic, a Power of Attorney, Form 2848 (“POA”) executed by the prospective client, a copy of a Pacer and Accurint reports, and a completed  Initial Contact Questionnaire. The student attorney to whom the case is assigned will execute a POA previously signed by the client and fax it to the CAF Unit (See ‘Your First Week’ sub-tab on website).

Approximately one week  after submitting the POA to the CAF Unit the student attorney will be authorized to access and print information regarding the taxpayer from e-Services. As soon as possible print the Wage and Income information and Account Transcripts for all years at issue from e-Services. Next, make the initial telephone call to the Taxpayer, following the steps outlined the Initial Interview To-Do List. The initial telephone call should be made within seven working days of assignment.

If the prospective client speaks Spanish only (hereinafter referred to as “Spanish Only”), his case file and Amicus file will be marked “Spanish Only,” and the Initial Contact questionnaire will be bilingual.  The Clinic’s Administrative Coordinator provides Spanish translation services for these clients.  No part of the initial telephone call or in-depth interview shall be conducted in writing or by any means other than real-time oral translation with the student attorney present.

The student attorney should handle cases involving Spanish only clients in the same manner as English speaking clients, following the same case handling procedures on this website for New Clients and for Existing Clients.  Student attorneys should prepare for and conduct the initial telephone call and in-depth interview in the same manner for Spanish only clients as for English speaking clients.  The only difference is that the Clinic’s Administrative Coordinator will provide real-time translation services in Spanish Only cases.

The student attorney will speak, then pause for the Administrative Coordinator to translate.  After asking a question, then pausing for the translation, the client will answer in Spanish.  The Administrative Coordinator will then translate the client’s answer in English so that the student attorney can formulate his follow-up questioning.  In every instance the Administrative Coordinator will translate as close to verbatim as possible, including any expressions of confusion on the part of the client, allowing the student attorney to formulate any response and explanation.  The student attorney is wholly responsible for the formulation of all questions and follow-up questions.  The student attorney may not rely upon the Administrative Coordinator for anything other than verbatim oral translations.

The initial telephone call:

It is essential that you begin the initial telephone call in a manner that will engender trust. It is usually effective not to begin with a series of questions, especially questions that involve sensitive personal information. Instead, explain the purpose of the call, how long you expect the call to last, and who you are. Then, begin with questions that confirm the client’s contact information.

The main objectives of the initial telephone call are to introduce yourself and obtain information to determine whether the Clinic will accept or decline representation. During this conversation, you should obtain information about the Taxpayer’s federal income tax issue, financial status, and possible conflicts of interest.   In connection with the latter inquire about whether both spouses signed the tax return and POA and only one wants representation prior to engagement by an interested party to the matter as a client.  All questions of possible conflict of interest must be raised with one of the Clinic Directors prior to accepting any client. Refer to the Initial Telephone Call and In-Depth Interview To-Do List prior to and during your initial telephone call to the prospective client for particular items you should discuss. For a Spanish Only client, the student attorney should telephone the client with the Administrative Coordinator present at the student attorney’s desk. The video that follows illustrates the initial telephone call.

Even if you feel the case is an appropriate one for the Clinic to handle, during the initial telephone call you should not promise representation. You must advise the Taxpayer that the telephone call does not mean the Clinic has agreed to accept the Taxpayer’s case. The Clinic Director or Associate Director must review the case before that decision is made. You should advise the Taxpayer that you will call within ten days to advise whether the case is accepted.

Bankruptcy

It is imperative that you determine whether the Taxpayer has filed a bankruptcy petition (under chapter 7, 11 or 13), and if so, a copy of the bankruptcy petition or discharge should be obtained. Once a bankruptcy petition has been filed, there is an automatic stay imposed under Bankruptcy Code §362 that prohibits any action to enforce the collection of a debt and that prohibits taking any steps that would affect the bankruptcy estate without permission of the Bankruptcy Court. The automatic stay precludes the commencement or continuation of a case docketed in Tax Court. Moreover, actions taken by the IRS in violation of the automatic stay are void. Further, if the stay is willfully violated, punitive sanctions may be imposed or equitable relief in the form of an injunction or declaratory judgment may be granted.

There are also statute of limitation implications and other consequences that result from filing a bankruptcy petition. Filing a bankruptcy petition stops (tolls) the running of the statute of limitation for assessment and collection of tax. Assessment is suspended while the automatic stay is in effect and for a 60-day period after the stay terminates. The period during which the IRS can collect a non-dischargeable tax liability is suspended while the stay is in effect and six months after the stay is lifted.

Because of the foregoing issues and other tax consequences of filing bankruptcy, you must determine if the taxpayer filed bankruptcy and must determine whether the automatic stay is in effect. Above all, you must bring this matter to the attention of the Clinic Director, Associate Director or Supervising Attorney as soon as possible.