5 minute read
After two years of providing assistance remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ANU Tax Clinic has resumed in-person consultations on campus. Operated by the Research School of Accounting, the Clinic provides confidential and free help on tax issues. It has been an outstanding success, despite challenges posed by the pandemic. With the ease of COVID-19 restrictions, an exciting development in 2022 is that the Clinic is now operating from a new fit-for-purpose space on the ground floor of the P.A.P. Moran building. The student-led Clinic is offering a hybrid service, either face-to-face or remote delivery (web conferencing platforms, phone), based on the individual needs of clients.
“With the opening of the new ANU Tax Clinic Hub, we hope to engage with more clients who prefer a face-to-face experience,” says ANU Tax Clinic Manager Carolyn Drury.
Clients can receive information and guidance about tax matters, including how to apply for a tax file number, using MyGov, lodging tax returns, residency, tax debt repayments, deductions, plus more.
Dr Sonali Walpola, the Clinic’s academic supervisor, describes the mission of the ANU Tax Clinic as one of “educational empowerment.”
“The Clinic provides clients with essential tax knowledge that enables them to complete their own tax returns in the future,” says Sonali.
Clients have conveyed positive feedback about the usefulness of the Clinic’s services.
“I learned a lot about my current self-employment situation and was also given information in case my situation changes next financial year,” says a recent ANU Tax Clinic client.
Under the supervision and mentorship of a team of experienced tax practitioners, many of whom are ANU College of Business and Economics alumni, accounting students help unrepresented taxpayers understand their tax obligations.
Alumna volunteer Veronica Shehata believes the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic has made services like the ANU Tax Clinic more vital than ever.
“The Clinic meets a growing need for personalised assistance with tax-related matters in a challenging economic environment. Individual life circumstances and working arrangements have changed rapidly over the last few years due to COVID-19, increasing the need for community initiatives such as the ANU Tax Clinic,” says Veronica.
Veronica has found her involvement with the Clinic to be a deeply fulfilling experience.
“The appreciation shown by the community members that we assist as well as the professional-development opportunities for university students is highly rewarding,” she says.
For ANU students, it offers a vibrant, work-integrated learning experience. Accounting student Shenglin Ma is benefiting professionally and personally from volunteering with the Clinic.
“I am broadening my taxation knowledge on personal income tax, such as sole trader’s cases and special circumstances, through preparing for clients’ cases and by attending informative Australian Taxation Office seminars arranged by the Clinic. I also get the chance to connect with tax professionals,” says Shenglin.
Connection is a key theme for the Clinic this year, as student volunteers have more opportunities to develop interpersonal skills at in-person appointments and events.
“I attended a seminar held for high school students and shared my experiences working at the ANU Tax Clinic. It was nice to interact with people and make eye contact with everyone in the room. This is hardly achievable in a video conference,” says Shenglin.
A great advantage to being in-person again is the ability to expand community involvement through activities such as the ACT Women’s Return to Work Mini Career Expo, which members of the team attended back in May. Through such increased engagement, the Clinic hopes to continue to expand awareness of their services.
“We aim to help First Nations peoples, migrants, young taxpayers, as well as community members who do not have tax accountants but still need free and professional help with their tax issues. It is very heartening to help people who really need it!” says Carolyn.
In 2022, the ANU Tax Clinic commenced virtual and in-person consultations in May, and clients can make bookings until the end of October. Click here to learn more and make an appointment to receive free tax assistance.
If you would like to enquire about volunteering with the ANU Tax Clinic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.