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May 29, 2020 Pro Bono Matters

Economic Impact Payment Information Translation and Outreach

By Frank Agostino, Agostino & Associates, Hackensack, NJ

On March 21, 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, a package of measures intended to provide emergency assistance to individuals and businesses in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act provides for Economic Impact Payments (EIP) of $1,200, plus an additional $500 per qualifying child, to every eligible American. One of the issues that the pandemic has made clear is that special efforts must be made to ensure that low-income taxpayers and those with limited English proficiency (LEP) are able to receive notice of, and are able to take advantage of, these provisions in the new law that are intended for their benefit. As CNN reported, “Millions of low-income Americans are at risk of missing out on stimulus payments.” 

There are as many as 10 million low-income, childless adults in the United States who are eligible for the federal government’s stimulus payment program, but are at risk of missing the money, according to tax experts. ... That’s because they aren’t required to file tax returns, making it harder for the IRS to verify their income—or even to know who they are or where to find them.

The IRS’s Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion notes in a FAQ the IRS’s mission to address the potential barriers that LEP can create. IRS Communications and Liaison (IRS C&L) has been highly focused on getting the relevant information to these historically underserved communities. IRS C&L has coordinated with 127,430 community contacts and 164 LEP partners to reach populations traditionally underserved by general market media because of language access issues, geographic isolation, racial or economic barriers, and similar matters.

The IRS Commissioner has personally reached out to bar organizations and asked that they partner with IRS C&L in outreach to the underserved taxpayers. In response to the Commissioner’s request, the tax professionals from the New York County Lawyer’s Association Tax Court pro bono program, Taxpayer Assistance Center, Legal Services of New Jersey and other NY/NJ tax professional groups are working with IRS Communications and Liaison (C&L) and the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to 

  1. Translate IRS guidance about the EIP into the languages spoken in New York and New Jersey, and 
  2. Provide the translations and EIP outreach information to, and work with, the groups and government and non-government agencies assisting low-income taxpayers and LEP taxpayers, including legal services and social services agencies, homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, food banks, religious and community leaders, elected representatives, UN missions, foreign consulates, foreign language speaking Chambers of Commerce and the foreign language media.

The IRS has created a useful “Economic Impact Payment Information Center” FAQ. NYCLA’s list of the translations completed to date and our solicitation of volunteers to prepare the translations needed to complete Phase 1 of this low-income and LEP taxpayer outreach is also available online at this link. Anyone in the ABA Tax Section interested in working on this outreach project can contact Frank Agostino at [email protected] or Brenda Stuart-Luke at [email protected]. In addition, readers should feel free to download the translations already prepared and forward them to any person or group you think can assist LEP and low-income taxpayers. Tax professionals in other states with substantial groups of LEP taxpayers may want to create similar translations for those groups in your area. Everyone can help.

Finally, NYCLA acknowledges the extraordinary efforts of our liaisons at IRS C&L, the Taxpayer Advocate Service, the Small Business Administration and Small Business Development Centers locally and throughout the United States. There are too many of these heroes to mention them all by name. However, in this crisis their compassion, willingness and ability to help assist LEP and low-income taxpayers shows how “essential” these public servants are to the well-being of the taxpayers of New York and New Jersey. On behalf of the NYCLA Tax Court pro bono program, thank you and stay safe. ■