Do you find yourself groaning or stressing out when you realise it’s time to do your tax return again? It’s a common feeling but there is help at hand for some taxpayers from ANU students. Jane Faure-Brac reports.
COVID-19 has made it difficult for people in regional areas to access services but the beauty of the ANU Tax Clinic is that people won’t even have to leave their homes to take advantage of this free service.
For the second year running, Accounting students from the College of Business and Economics are staffing the ANU Tax Clinic, backed by tax professionals from the community.
It’s a free service where students offer assistance to those in need to meet their tax obligations.
After last year’s successful trial, which saw walk-in clinics in Canberra city and suburbs, the ANU Tax Clinic extended its reach this year to the A.C.T surrounds and southern NSW region.
Reaching more people was possible with the service operating exclusively by phone and video-conferencing to comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
“We’ve had an amazing start to the ANU Tax Clinic this year, we’ve already doubled the number of people who came to us in our first year and we’ve still got several weeks to run,” said Dr Sonali Walpola.
She said it had been a tough year, with many in the region already affected by the summer bushfires then having to deal with the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has made it difficult for people in regional areas to access services but the beauty of the ANU Tax Clinic is that people won’t even have to leave their homes to take advantage of this free service.
“Tax time can be stressful at the best of times, but this year people may have additional questions due to the COVID-19 tax measures.
“Jobkeeper payments are administered by the ATO and it offered a simplified process for some deductions,” she said.
“This year we’ve had a lot of questions about deductions for home office expenses.
“The Government has introduced a temporary short-cut method of 80 cents per hour for home running costs for the huge number of people working from home due to COVID-19.”
To be eligible to use the service, you must be unrepresented by a tax agent.
A new client to the Clinic said it was a valuable service between trying to navigate the ATO website alone and having to pay for a professional accountant.
“I discovered that in previous years I had failed to claim a lot of work-related expenses that I was eligible for.
“I think many students are in a similar situation where they don't know how to navigate the tax process and so end up being disadvantaged in their returns,” she said.
Dr Walpola said the service may be particularly appealing to students, migrants, or anyone doing their tax returns for the first time.
“It will be a quick and easy phone call or video conference meeting organised by ANU and half an hour later people should have their questions answered and the information they need.”
ANU Graduate Ben Raines, who worked in last year’s Tax Clinic trial, is now a consultant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
"My internship with the ANU Tax Clinic was a really rewarding experience. It personally changed me as I was able to make a difference in the community, using the knowledge I had obtained through my degrees and helping people in need," he said.
The extended service covers the ACT, Yass, Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Jindabyne, Cooma and the south coast region from Eurobodalla down to Eden.
The Clinic is open from 12 August 2020 through to 23 October 2020. Appointments are available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. To get in touch reach out to us directly at email@example.com, call us on 02 6125 4853 or use the form on this page.