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UniSA opens free tax clinic

By Cyndal King

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UniSA has opened a free, professional and confidential Tax Clinic to help individuals and small businesses struggling to navigate their tax requirements.

Targeting unrepresented small businesses, individuals, not-for-profit organisations and charities, the clinic will assist with tax returns, tax debts and educate clients around compliancy issues.

Funded by the Australian Treasury, the initiative is part of a Federal Government commitment announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November 2018 to reduce the regulatory burden on organisations.

The UniSA Tax Clinic is one of 10 free tax clinics across Australia supported under the initiative, which has already helped more than 140 individuals and small businesses.

The new clinic was officially opened earlier this month by UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd and the ATO’s Second Commissioner, Law Design and Practice, Andrew Mills, in the Yungondi Atrium at the University’s City West campus.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Business and Law), UniSA Business School, Prof Marie Wilson says the UniSA Tax Clinic will fill a recognised gap in the market.

“There’s no doubt that tax time can be challenging for everyone, but for individuals, not-for-profits and small businesses that may not be able to afford proper advice and representation from a registered tax agent, it can be overwhelming,” Prof Wilson says.

“The UniSA Tax Clinic aims to alleviate this need, by providing a range of free and accessible tax services, advocacy, and education which will not only improve customers’ knowledge and understanding of the tax system, but also their interactions with the ATO.

“The clinic will operate in the same way as our highly successful Legal Advice Clinic, providing services for people who cannot afford to pay. Ultimately, this is about helping people who may otherwise fall through the cracks.”

ATO’s Second Commissioner, Law Design and Practice, Andrew Mills says the trial complements the ATO's existing range of help and support services for unrepresented taxpayers, such as the ATO’s long-running Tax Help community volunteer program and the Dispute Assist service.

Clinic founder and manager, Dr Rob Whait says the clinic also plays an important role in equipping students with the business skills and knowledge required for professional tax practice.

“This hands-on experience is crucial for students as they can gain opportunities in dealing with clients in a real-life setting and be job-ready by the time they have completed their studies,” Dr Whait says.

“In this way, the clinic is not only providing a vital service to the community, but also an opportunity for business students to use their tax knowledge and develop professional skills.”

Run by UniSA students under the supervision of qualified tax professionals, the UniSA Tax Clinic is located at UniSA’s City West Campus and operates an outreach service from the Hackham West Community Centre. Appointments are essential.