Danielle Meddemmen and Emma Larouche
23 September 2022: University of Canberra students are providing free, independent, and confidential tax advice to members of the Canberra community and the surrounding regional areas while gaining valuable practical experience under the supervision of a registered tax agent.
The UC Tax Clinic was established by the University using funding secured under the Australian Government’s National Tax Clinic (NTC) Program. The University is funded to operate the Tax Clinic for three years and is the only Tax Clinic in the ACT to receive funding under this program.
Canberra Law School Lecturer and Manager of the UC Tax Clinic, Ms Carole Grey, explained that the three-year initiative would go a long way in assisting taxpayers who couldn’t otherwise obtain representation.
Assistance is available to eligible individuals, small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and charities who can’t access or afford professional advice from a tax agent.
“The UC Tax Clinic will have a particular focus on small businesses and financially vulnerable taxpayers who have fallen behind with their tax affairs and are unable to afford or access the services of a tax agent. These taxpayers may need help navigating our tax system because, for example, they lack financial literacy, are low-income earners, or come from a non-English-speaking background,” she said.
“The initiative is built on two pillars – engaging with the community through the provision of advice, guidance and assistance on tax matters and providing a real-life Work Integrated Learning experience for our students.”
The UC Tax Clinic will operate all year round, and offers a wide range of services and support that include applying for a Tax File Number, Australian Business Number and GST registration; advice regarding a taxpayer’s rights and obligations under Australian tax law; completing current and prior year tax returns; completing current and outstanding business activity statements (BAS); managing debts and disputes with the ATO; and setting up a payment plan. As the Clinic is currently operating online, appointments are available via online web conferencing and by phone.
All UC Tax Clinic services provided by the students are supervised by a registered tax agent. The UC Tax Clinic is ideally placed to provide more personalised services to clients from Canberra and the surrounding regions, including those of a more complex nature. These services may involve the preparation and lodgment of tax returns (including BAS) on a client’s behalf or representing them in disputes and other dealings with the ATO.
The UC Tax Clinic will further provide an educational role, working with schools and the wider community providing seminars on tax-related topics to increase community understanding of the tax system.
“This initiative will enhance our students’ chances to gain employment, while teaching them about the links between service to the community and ethics, and professional responsibility at an early point in their careers.”
Associate Dean (Partnerships and Engagement) of the University’s Faculty of Business, Government and Law, Professor Simon Hoy, said there’s an opportunity for the UC Tax Clinic to not only service Canberra, but the wider region in the future.
“We hope to take students working in the UC Tax Clinic on short term study tours into those regions, working with industry partners, giving them the opportunity to provide tax services to small businesses and financially vulnerable taxpayers in regional centres around Canberra,” he said.
“Not only will this help a wider audience, but it’s also a great opportunity for our students to see what it’s like in those areas and consider the idea of living and working in regional communities.”
Visit the UC Tax Clinic website to find out more about the services provided and to apply for assistance: https://www.canberra.edu.au/tax-clinic