Nathaniel Hibben shares his efforts in Pro Bono work.October 29, 2009
Nathaniel (“Nate”) Hibben served as the site coordinator for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Liberty University School of Law during January and February 2009. The VITA clinic specifically serves low-income and elderly individuals who are unable to prepare their own tax returns. As site coordinator, he organized all aspects of the clinic, including communicating with the IRS to obtain access to the e-file program, recruiting student volunteers, training student volunteers in the IRS-provided certification process, and publicizing the clinic.
Prior to beginning the clinic, he led three workshops, three hours each, to teach the certification materials to the student volunteers—most of whom had no experience in tax prior to the workshop. Twenty-six law students successfully completed the IRS certification process to complete returns. After the student volunteers had completed the returns, Mr. Hibben checked each return for accuracy before submitting the returns to the IRS and appropriate state. As of mid-February 2009, the VITA site on the law school’s campus had prepared 127 tax returns and helped clients apply for $103,000.00 in federal funds.
Mr. Hibben developed the program and trained volunteers in such a way that even after his graduation in 2009, the program would continue to thrive under the leadership of previous volunteers. He says, “The biggest thing about volunteer service is to do something you like and have experience in. I like to do taxes, so I started the tax clinic; in the process, I learned a lot and I'll continue to do taxes throughout my legal career. The student volunteers get great experience—not only in taxes, but in client relations and problem solving.”
Additionally, Mr. Hibben found it rewarding to work with people from the surrounding community. “Quite a few of our clients had never interacted with Liberty University before coming to the clinic. For almost all of our clients, it was their first interaction with the law school. So all around, it's hard to imagine a better volunteer opportunity for law students. I'd recommend the VITA program to anyone.”