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Some taxpayers, lawyers included, may dread the season now upon us. But Lauren T. Gelber, a second-year student at New York Law School, revels in this time of reckoning with Uncle Sam. “I like the system,” she said of the labyrinthine federal and New York tax codes. “I don’t necessarily agree with the system, but I like trying to figure it out.” Small wonder that Ms. Gelber is among the students at New York Law who have become certified tax preparers this year under the Internal Revenue Service program known as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), which provides free help to low-income individuals and families. Helena Prigal, director of public interest and community service at New York Law, said 25 students are certified this tax season, up from seven last year, when the school first participated in VITA by placing ads in the Downtown Express newspaper inviting qualified clientele. This year, Ms. Prigal expects the school’s caseload to triple from 100 to 300. Among Ms. Gelber’s clients on Tuesday afternoon was fellow second-year student Gillian H. Kost, 24, and, as a part-time employee of New York Law’s Office of Student Life, verifiably poor. “My dad says to me, ‘Hey, you’re a lawyer, you can do it,’” said Ms. Kost as she handed over her tuition credit and W-2 forms to Ms. Gelber. “No, I can’t. “If I do it myself,” added Ms. Kost, who plans a career in corporate law, “I’ll get it wrong.” In 10 minutes flat, during which counselor and client chatted about a certain “scatterbrained” professor of their mutual acquaintance, Ms. Gelber filed Ms. Kost’s federal and state returns electronically. “The good news,” said Ms. Gelber, entering numbers on a laptop computer, “is that you get $399 back from the feds. . . . “ “Cool!” said Ms. Kost. ” . . . But you owe $195 to state and local.” “Oh, God, this is so annoying!” Ms. Gelber finds the experience of helping harried taxpayers anything but annoying. “People are so overwhelmed, [tax filing] isn’t something that makes them happy,” she said. “I try to make conversation about something else, like the weather or their job.There’s something about helping people that’s therapeutic for me.” There is also legal and social educational value, said Ms. Prigal. “There’s no typical client,” she said. “We see the elderly, unemployed young people, families. Our law students are able to give them answers, and they’re able to take on a matter from start to finish. Ms. Gelber and other volunteers undergo two Saturdays of training at New York Law and must pass a test to be certified by the IRS as tax preparers. For Ms. Gelber, whose career plans alternate between tax and criminal law, such training was a pleasure. After all, as she recollected from her childhood in Rumson, N.J., “On family car trips, I’d always be in the backseat doing long division.”

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