Virginia LITC Director Michelle Drumbl delivers award winning paper on EITC compliance

April 28, 2016

Michelle Drumbl, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Low-Income Tax Clinic at Washington & Lee University, won the award for best paper at the recent ATAX 12th International Conference on Tax Administration.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who has worked with Drumbl, said "I personally am immensely proud of Michelle. She is an accomplished legal scholar and a model advocate for taxpayers seeking help in meeting their tax obligations. Her years of work of advocating and helping taxpayers have led to this well-deserved honor."

The paper, entitled "Beyond polemics: poverty, taxes, and noncompliance," explores the nature and nuances of Earned Income Tax Credit noncompliance, identifies ways in which it is both different than and similar to other types of taxpayer noncompliance, critiques certain IRS EITC enforcement efforts, and discusses ways the IRS might improve upon its EITC audit selection and enforcement mechanisms in the future.

In the paper, Drumbl says, “Increasing the amount of information required from all taxpayers (whether self-prepared or using a preparer) at the time of filing will reduce both intentional and unintentional EITC errors. Increasing these requirements, coupled with slowing down the refund process generally, is a reasonable way to improve administration of the EITC program without unduly burdening low-income taxpayers.”

When asked what prompted her to write about this particular topic, Drumbl said, “It grew out of clinic work I’ve done over the last few years. In public discourse, EITC overpayments are often conflated with fraud, but the reality is far more nuanced. I’ve seen first-hand many taxpayers who made an over claim despite truly trying to comply. They simply didn’t understand the rules thoroughly enough, even after referencing IRS publications. That led me to look at the comparison between those who intentionally take the credit, knowing they are not entitled to, and those who unintentionally make an error. The idea took off from there. My goal was to try to help improve the system, ultimately helping those taxpayers who truly need the credit.”

The article concludes by proposing several suggestions and ideas to reduce EITC noncompliance. Read the full paper, Beyond polemics: poverty, taxes, and noncompliance, on the Social Science Research Network website.