Student Tax Clinics set to help vulnerable taxpayers

Griffith University has been selected as the only university in south-east Queensland to take part in a federally funded national trial of Student Tax Clinics, set to commence in July.

To be established at Griffith’s Logan campus, the Student Tax Clinics will provide the opportunity to society’s most vulnerable people to get tax assistance from students, under the supervision of a Registered Tax Agent.

Taxation and small-business expert Professor Brett Freudenberg said that Griffith’s selection was based on its strong focus on social justice, as well as its recognised excellence in tax education, including the offering of its Tax Minor as part of the Bachelor of Commerce degree.

Professor Brett Freudenberg

“The Student Tax Clinics will be an important part of access to justice for vulnerable persons in terms of Australia’s tax laws,” Professor Freudenberg said.

“The Clinics will be able help to assist those who are having problems navigating Australia’s complex tax system, including providing advice about their rights and obligations.

“For example, this can be of critical importance for those who are recent migrants to Australia who may not be aware of their obligations, and include such things as assisting them with their discussions with the Tax Office.”

“The Student Tax Clinics could also assist those who have just commenced employment or have small business operations and are struggling with the tax rules that apply to such transitions — especially if they feel they cannot afford professional support.”

According to Professor Freudenberg, the Student Tax Clinics will also provide industry professionals such as accountants and lawyers the opportunity to provide pro bono advice and assistance through the tax clinics, as well as giving participating students unique insight to the practical impacts of their studies.

“This support by the profession could be as a referrals service for more complex matters, presenting tax education seminars, or supporting and mentoring the students engaged at the clinics,” Professor Freudenberg said.

“Students involved with the Tax Clinic will have a fantastic opportunity to learn firsthand how their studies are relevant and can be applied to real taxpayers. Also, it will be a chance for them to see the social and commercial implications of Australia’s tax laws, and allow them to reflect how the tax system could be better designed.”

Professor David Grant

Pro Vice Chancellor (Business) Professor David Grant welcomed the announcement of the Clinics’ funding, noting how it aligns with several of the University’s core values and expertise.

“These Clinics build on Griffith Business School’s proud tradition of pursuing socially responsible, inclusive business practices, as shown through our activities through bodies such as the Yunus Social Business Centre and the Griffith Centre for Personal Finance and Superannuation, which has a strong emphasis on improving financial literacy — including among those from low socioeconomic status,” Professor Grant said.

Once operational, the Student Tax Clinics will have a scope to provide assistance with issues such as tax advice, how to respond to an ATO notice, applying for remissions of penalties, negotiation of payment plans, and assessment disputes.

To be eligible for assistance, a person must not currently have a tax agent, must be an Australian resident (or permanent resident), and be an individual or small business entity.

In addition to the impending launch of the Student Tax Clinic, Griffith will be hosting free monthly educational seminars to help taxpayers better understand the tax system.

The first seminar is scheduled for Tuesday 16 April at 6pm, focusing on the topic: “How to deal with the Tax Office: Your rights and options”.

The other universities in Australia selected for the trial include Curtin University (WA), which commenced its Student Tax Clinics in 2018.

For further information about the Student Tax Clinics, please contact Professor Brett Freudenberg at [email protected] or on (07) 3735 8071.