The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) would like to thank Volunteer of the Month, Henry Cheng of DLA Piper. Cheng represents clients in tax controversy matters through JDC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, handling full scope and limited scope matters through the U.S. Tax Court’s Day-of-Docket Program. Cheng attended UC Santa Cruz and UC Hastings College of the Law before pursuing his LLM in taxation at New York University. Cheng clerked for the Honorable David Laro of the U.S. Tax Court in Washington D.C., before returning to the Bay Area to join DLA Piper as a tax controversy and litigation associate in Palo Alto.
As a clerk, Cheng experienced firsthand how pro se taxpayers are disadvantaged because they don’t have representation. The substantive tax law is complicated for non-tax professionals, and the procedural rules add another layer of complexity for pro se taxpayers with meritorious cases. Volunteering at JDC has provided Cheng with the opportunity to draw on his tax court experience and assist those who would otherwise be appearing pro se.
In one recent case, Cheng helped a disabled client assert a complicated procedural argument in order to overcome an apparent waiver of his right to dispute his underlying tax liability in court. Through the Day-of-Docket Program, Cheng and his client went through hundreds of pages of documents and found numerous letters omitted from the administrative record that substantiated his claim of non-waiver. The court was persuaded and ordered further briefing on the issue. The IRS conceded the case a few weeks later.
In another full-scope representation case, Cheng assisted a widow, who had been abused by her now deceased husband, to obtain innocent spouse relief. Cheng worked closely with IRS counsel to understand their burden of proof concerns, and he arranged a personal, informal interview allowing the client to tell her story of spousal abuse. The IRS conceded the case.
Through JDC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, Cheng has been able to give back to his native Bay Area and serve his profession. Cheng is thankful for the support of DLA Piper partners, David F. Gross and David Colker, and the firm for their commitment to pro bono service.
If you’d like to become involved with JDC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic please contact Matthew Miller, JDC Supervising Attorney, at firstname.lastname@example.org.