LITC Experience Leads to Success at Accounting Firms
The University of Denver Sturm College of Law’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is a pillar in the education of many of its students, launching the careers of graduates interested in taxation.
Representing low-income taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in audit, appeals, collections and federal tax litigation, the clinic’s service is uniquely expansive, encouraging its participating student who are earning their Masters in Tax (MT) or Masters of Law in Taxation (LLM) degrees to get involved with this underrepresented community.
Samantha Galvin, the Director of the LITC, received her JD and LLM in Taxation from the Sturm College of Law. During her studies, Professor Galvin participated in the clinic and has continued to pay forward her experiences. She shares, “I also participated in the clinic when I was a student and I fell in love with it.”
Professor Galvin underscores the unprecedented skills that are promoted in the LITC. “Students who have participated in the LITC demonstrate to employers that they are not afraid to put themselves into a different scenario other than the classroom lecture,” she observes. “When students move on to the accounting firm setting they will see the front end of tax, such as the planning, preparation and filing.. In the clinic they have seen the backend-- what happens when things fall apart and go wrong--and what is required to fix it. The clinic experience teaches students the importance of doing things right at the front end.”
This experiential education has proven especially valuable to two LITC participants, Ishan Regmi and Zachary Messerschmidt.
Regmi graduated from the University of Denver in 2014 with his MT. He currently works for Stone Pine Accounting Services, LLC, in Denver, CO. Regmi credits the clinic for not only rounding out his education but also mobilizing his post-graduate career. Reflecting on his experience, he observed, “You get that satisfaction from helping the client and helping them come out of tax misery and that was fulfilling. It makes your education very tangible.”
Messerschmidt echoed the sentiments shared by Regmi about his time in the LITC. As a current participant in the LITC, Messerschmidt will soon graduate from the Sturm College of Law and is honored to join PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in January 2021. He reflected on the shared values between the LITC program and his future employer. “PwC’s mission is to build trust in society and to solve important problems,” he offered, emphasizing similarities with his experiences in the LITC. “My sole purpose during my time at the clinic has been to build trust in society and to solve current problems.” As Messerschmidt anticipates his imminent graduation, concluding his work with the LITC and entering into his chosen profession, he credits LITC with equipping him for the workforce and spearheading his career.
At the same time, Messerschmidt is thoughtful about the primary difference between his preparation and what’s ahead. “The scale is incredibly different,” he notes. “At ‘Big Four’, you deal with a network of millions of people--C-Corps, S-Corps, billions of dollars at a time are circulating. But you’ve gotta walk before you can run,” he adds, referencing his experience at LITC and the unique setting where he meets with his current clients. “Here, it has all of the experience that you’re going to find in a corporate setting but all of that intimacy, all of that practice, all of that education is compacted into one person, one story.”
Messerschmidt is passionate about his chosen field and finds a personal mission that aligns with the values of the clinic. “Tax is a universal thing; I should reference Benjamin Franklin, ‘There are two guarantees in life: death and taxes.’ So,” he adds with commitment, “What is a more important thing than to understand the function and the practice of tax and use that to help our brothers and sisters--domestically, abroad, and in any capacity that we can? That is what I appreciate about the clinic, to not be taught those values but to practice those values every day, without fail. I would implore anybody who has the opportunity to take advantage of the Low Income Tax Clinic, if they have the opportunity.”
Through his reflections, Messerschmidt highlighted the most valuable skills that the LITC granted him in his pre-professional education. “Empathy and confidence are a great balance of skills that we learned at the clinic. The experience teaches you empathy in a way that can’t be learned from simply reading a case study or even going to a seminar.”
The LITC is a foundational commitment in the University of Denver’s dedication to service. The LITC has benefitted both the participating students along their career paths and the clients that they are able to serve. Granting an avenue that helps all involved parties is a pinnacle of this scholarship and a resource proudly offered by this University. Messerschmidt best summarized the value of the LITC in his sentiments as he reflected upon his experience: “You get to leave someone in a better place than they came to you,” he noted. “That’s what I look to do and that’s what I am given the opportunity to do every day in the clinic. This builds confidence in your ability to practice and perform, to communicate, interact and even educate.”