JDC Volunteer Uses Specialized Expertise to Navigate System on Behalf of Clients

By Sarah Drinkwater, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Supervising Attorney, JDC

Jennifer Tolkoff

Jennifer Tolkoff

The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) is pleased to recognize Morgan, Lewis & Bockius associate Jennifer Tolkoff as our volunteer of the month for her work with JDC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). Tolkoff has been a volunteer with JDC since 2012.

LITC provides full scope and limited scope representation to low income taxpayers facing controversy with the IRS. This includes a range of matters from negotiating Offers in Compromise to representation before the United States Tax Court.

LITC also hosts a “Day of Docket” program in which experienced tax attorneys provide legal and procedural advice to unrepresented litigants during the tax court’s calendar call. Tolkoff has been a dedicated volunteer to both programs.

She was first referred to LITC by William Colgin, a partner at Morgan Lewis, who helped launch JDC’s LITC and who has volunteered with the project since 2007. Tolkoff has taken on numerous full scope cases with LITC as well as provided limited scope counsel and advice to petitioners through the Day of Docket Program.

She is driven to volunteer because she finds it rewarding to use her specialized expertise in tax to help people navigate an often confusing and complicated system.

For example, she represented a single woman who was the caregiver of two children. Her client, Susan,* worked for a nonprofit and made little more than minimum wage. Additionally, she had to drive 50 miles each way to and from work. Susan claimed dependent exemptions, which were denied by the IRS, so she filed a petition in the United States Tax Court. Through Tolkoff’s representation, Susan’s tax liability was reduced to 1/6 of what was previously owed and an offer to settle the remainder is currently pending.

Tolkoff is a member of her firm’s Pro Bono Committee and her volunteer work is reflective of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ commitment to pro bono. In 2014, the Palo Alto Office met the firm’s pro bono challenge with 100% of attorneys meeting the minimum 20 hours of pro bono time.

Tolkoff’s practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and tax litigation where she primarily represents corporate taxpayers in large dollar disputes.

Tolkoff is a native of Portland, Oregon and has lived in the Bay Area since 2009 where she attended UC Hastings College of Law. In addition to her volunteer work with the JDC, she participates in the Swords to Plowshares firm advisory board. When not practicing law, she spends her weekends volunteering with the Pound Puppy Rescue, a dog rescue organization in Palo Alto, and running with her own SPCA rescue dogs at Fort Funston.

*Client’s name has been changed.