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Help Somebody Hall of Fame: Nancy Rossner, Community Tax Law Project

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in our RVA community.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members.  This month, we’re recognizing Nancy Rossner – a staff attorney at the Community Tax Law Project (CTLP).

The CTLP provides free legal help to Virginia’s low wage families and individuals experiencing economic harm because of a tax problem. Their services directly strengthen the financial stability of working families and ensure that all Virginians receive fair and equal treatment in tax disputes.  Nancy’s colleague nominated her for this recognition (but asked to be anonymous) and said, “I am constantly amazed by Nancy’s dedication to her work assisting our clients with their complicated tax issues.  Not only does she handle a very high level of cases at all times, but she does so with such passion, conviction, and an extremely high level of professionalism.

Read more about Nancy’s work and how she’s bettering our community, below.

How does Nancy demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Nancy Rossner has been working tirelessly and diligently as a staff attorney at the Community Tax Law Project for over six years. Nancy helps over 200 Virginians annually by providing free legal representation to assist these persons with their tax legal problems. Whether the issue is before the IRS or the Virginia Department of Taxation, Nancy skillfully advocates for each taxpayer until their issue is resolved. Nancy treats all clients with the same zealousness whether their issue is small or involves large denominations.

All her clients are low-income and would not have access to legal representation without Nancy and the Community Tax Law Project. In addition to full legal representation, Nancy also opens her knowledge of the federal and state tax systems to provide brief tax advice to several hundred more Virginians who have tax questions. These questions can range from a simple question such as whether a person has to file their taxes but can also involve more complex questions such as what information a taxpayer includes in their petition to the U.S. Tax Court.

Once again, Nancy applies her expertise and professionalism to each of these brief encounters providing legal tax advice not available elsewhere without a fee. Finally, Nancy conducts a large portion of the educational outreach conducted by the Community Tax Law Project. She provides tax literacy classes to a variety of job readiness and workforce reentry programs. Furthermore, Nancy has presented on low-income taxpayer issues at several regional and national conferences in her field. Always the consummate professional, Nancy addresses these speaking opportunities as another avenue to make the lives of low-income taxpayers better through education on the tax system.

Nancy with CTLP interns doing outreach in the community.

What’s the impact of Nancy’s generosity?                 

Nancy’s impact is difficult to describe without providing examples, as all her cases have their own unique set of facts. One recent case that comes to mind immediately is a case involving a taxpayer named Janine (name changed to protect the client’s identity). Janine was an insurance agent who had recently received a letter from the IRS stating that she owed them a substantial amount of money, which she could not afford. Janine had been working with other members of her family who had become abusive to her, physically, emotionally, and financially. Janine was able to remove herself from the physical and direct emotional danger of her family, but the financial abuse continued to follow her. First, some of the tax issues Janine was facing were because her family members were working under her professional license. Any profits Janine’s family members were earning using her license were being attributed by the IRS to Janine. Once Nancy became involved, Nancy was able to help Janine stop her family from their fraudulent use of her professional license. This required a state agency and their investigative branch to correct the prior fraudulent activity. Nancy also worked within the IRS system to then correct Janine’s income to exclude the amounts fraudulently attributed to Janine by her own family members.

This whole process took many months to accomplish, but Nancy was by Janine’s side through the entire journey. What makes this story even more special is that Janine is a single mother and English is not her native language. I wish I could say that this is the highlight of Nancy’s career as a public service attorney. However, Janine’s case is one of thousands of similar cases that Nancy has worked on over the last six years. The facts of each case are different, but there is a common thread of a person’s life falling to pieces. Sometimes, the turmoil is related to abuse such as was the case with Janine. Other times, homelessness is an immediate concern, when the person has not addressed their tax problems and wages are about to be garnished. Many people do not envision tax problems causing someone’s life to completely derail. However, when you add a tax problem to a life riddled with abuse, illiteracy, mental abuse, substance abuse, and a precarious financial situation, you have the recipe for a life about to be shattered. For literally thousands of low-income taxpayers, Nancy has been there to fix the tax component of their life struggles, providing her clients with at least one less life struggle to deal with.

In addition to her professional attributes, Nancy is also a dedicated mother to her beautiful young daughter and a loving wife to her husband. She is also a proud alumna of the University of Richmond School of Law and continues to mentor several student interns from her law school at the Community Tax Law Project.

Nancy presenting at a national conference for tax professionals.

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

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