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Legal Aid provides tax relief to family, with unique help from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

Posted March 16, 2023
12:00 pm

Rich and Crystal are loving parents and passionate artists. They were pillars of their community in Indiana, where they lived their dream of operating a theater company. Unfortunately, like many other arts programs, theirs was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their situation was further complicated when Crystal lost her income after giving birth to their second child, as her employer did not offer paid parental leave.

During this uncertain time, Rich and Crystal decided to relocate to Ohio to be close to Crystal’s family. As they packed up to move, their children brought some of their most beloved possessions with them: a vibrant library of books tailored to each of their interests and ages, provided by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library monthly by mail.

When Rich and Crystal, long-time Dolly fans, learned that the beloved celebrity had created a program to help kids discover a love for reading, they knew they had to take part. First launched in 1995, today 1 in 10 children under the age of five in the USA receives Imagination Library books. Rich and Crystal never realized how important it would be that their children would be counted among that number.

When they moved to Ohio, Rich became the primary wage earner as Crystal shifted away from full-time work. Rich began claiming his children as dependents on his tax form. To his shock, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rejected his tax filing and demanded proof of his custody. To make matters worse, rather than disbursing the refund to which Rich was entitled, the IRS claimed Rich owed taxes. After failed attempts to seek clarification or a way forward, Rich noticed something in the materials the IRS had sent him: a referral card for Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. Through this clinic, Legal Aid assists low-income taxpayers in resolving their disputes with the IRS about federal income tax matters.

Together with Legal Aid’s help, Rich and Crystal came up with an ingenious solution – Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library had been sending their children books their entire lives, both while they lived in Indiana and after their move to Ohio. They gathered the books and mailers addressed to the family, and provided them as evidence to the IRS, helping to prove Rich’s long-standing custody of the children.

Rich spoke warmly about his experience with Legal Aid, and of his attorney, Michelle Frazier, “She just kind of befriended me and made me feel a little more at ease. How many other people go through this? How many people throw up their hands and say, ‘I don’t know what to do?”

Thanks to Dolly’s belief that “you can never get enough books into the hands of enough children,” Rich and his Legal Aid attorney were able to employ an especially imaginative solution to a difficult tax problem.

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Rich, Crystal and children


Michelle Frazier, Esq.

To learn more about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, visit

Originally published in Legal Aid's "Poetic Justice" newsletter, Volume 20, Issue 1 in March 2023. See full issue at this link: “Poetic Justice” Volume 20, Issue 1.

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