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New Partnership Assists Low-Income People With Taxes

Published Thursday Mar 14, 2024

Author Scott Merrill

Before the smell of lilacs fills the air this year, people will be wading through the federal tax system. For people with low incomes in NH, finding help with this convoluted system is being made a little easier because of a partnership between 603 Legal Aid and the University of NH Franklin Pierce School of Law that started last fall.

Barbara Heggie, coordinator of the 603 Legal Aid Low-Income Taxpayer Project, led this effort to educate law students about tax services and prepare them to assist clients directly.

Heggie began working as a legal aid attorney helping low-income taxpayers in 2012 and enthusiastically threw herself into her work, complete with singing tax jingles focused on things people need to remember. Now, in the classroom, she is bringing her knowledge and wisdom to law students so they can assist people.

603 Legal Aid, based in Concord, helps low-income people across NH by providing free civil legal advice and information, representing someone in court, or by referring people to an attorney willing to volunteer their services or another program for legal help.

The Low-Income Taxpayer Project helps low-income taxpayers with federal tax issues under $50,000. A low-income taxpayer is someone whose income is not more than 250% of the federal poverty guidelines. So, a family of four making $59,625 or less qualifies for this program.

Students are also learning to assist incarcerated people soon to be released who have not received COVID relief payments. “Trying to verify identity from prison is hellish,” Heggie says, explaining it can be frustrating for inmates waiting for payments to afford housing. The problem for incarcerated people, Heggie continues, was that they didn’t receive their checks at the same time as everyone else.

“The IRS decided they weren’t worthy in many cases, and we had to tell the judge they are. If you’ve been incarcerated for a few years with no recent record of filing tax returns, the IRS doesn’t have the ability to locate you,” Heggie says. “And if you file a 2020 or 2021 tax return as an inmate, they may suspect you’re not who you say you are. Inmates are prime candidates for identity theft.”

Students are excited about being a part of the program. One said, “Going to the Berlin Correctional Facility to meet with my client was one of the highlights of my entire law school experience. . . . I enjoyed seeing our clients’ expressions light up when they saw us and learned we were there to help them with their tax issues.” For more information, visit

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