7 February 2020
By Michal Chodorowski, final year Law student volunteering in the Law School’s Tax Clinic. The Tax Clinic is being run in partnership with Tax Aid and the University of Central Lancashire until 20th March 2020.

Law, as a university degree, is extremely broad. To give us the qualifications we need for our professional lives, we are required to study a range of courses – from contract and constitutional law to equity and trusts. But, as in all things, we all have our favourites. For some, it’s the area of law they find particularly interesting; for others it’s the area they do best in. Mine, ticking both boxes, is Tax Law.

To say that I have always been interested in Tax would be a lie. I only developed an affection towards it in the third (penultimate) year of my studies, which I spent studying abroad at Charles University Prague. It was a slow burn – at first, I found it boring and unnecessarily complicated. Only later did I learn to appreciate these complexities and understand that they all had a profound impact on our everyday lives. When I came back to Lancaster for my final year, I knew that I wanted to explore it further.

Fortunately, Lancaster run a Tax Law module which let me do exactly that. The module is a very solid exploration of the UK tax system and some of its underlying principles. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve also decided to write my undergraduate dissertation on a tax law related topic – VAT frauds in the European Union.

Despite all of that, something seemed to be missing from my studies. Whilst I do enjoy understanding how the theory behind how things work, I wanted to explore more about the practical implications of it all. So, when I heard of the North West Tax Clinic, I knew that it was the opportunity I was looking for. It would allow me to develop my understanding of tax law through the lens of real-world problems, all the while offering me the chance to give something back to the local community.

The North West Tax Clinic is an initiative run by student volunteers from Lancaster University and UCLAN under the umbrella of TaxAid, aiming to offer free tax advice to people and organisations in the North West. As part of our preparation for this role we have attended multiple training sessions with TaxAid to ground our understanding of tax in more practical terms. These have been fantastic. We were provided with a range of incredibly clear, organised, and to the point materials to aid our learning. The trainers themselves were always cool and composed and explained complex tax issues as if they were GCSE maths. The scenarios they used to illustrate these, all based on real life cases they were a part of, were particularly helpful. We were able to ask any questions and their answers were always incredibly useful.

Their approach to the training was, in my opinion, a perfect example of how to foster good relations with your client – by making sure that they understand what is being said to them and being available to answer any queries which they might have. Overall, they have left a lasting impression on me and I hope that one day I will be able to exhibit this level of professional confidence in my dealings with the wider public.

The training, using the aforementioned scenarios, has also given me the first glimpses into what potential issues I might be dealing with at the Clinic itself. This has reinforced my commitment to the project. Not every day do I get the opportunity to explore the area of law that I’ve grown particularly fond of, all the while helping members of the community. After all, this is what the Clinic is all about – furthering ourselves as individuals, gaining valuable experience, and helping the local community while we are at it. I can’t wait to get started.