Grant ensures free Griffith Tax Clinic continues

Student advisers learn the ropes under the guidance of registered tax practitioners at Griffith Tax Clinic.

Griffith University has been awarded $100,000 to continue a popular free community tax service in time for the end of the 2020-21 Financial Year.

This year, many people are expecting another tricky tax time after accessing welfare payments, starting their own businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic or continuing to work from home.

Griffith Tax Clinic convenor Dr Melissa Belle Isle said some people had also started earning income as a contractor, like being an Uber driver, and should be aware that may impact their return.

Dr Melissa Belle Isle.

“The Federal Government funding could not have come at a better time for the Griffith Tax Clinic,” Dr Belle Isle said.

“People can be scared of tax, but the Griffith Tax Clinic provides a safe environment where people can ask those questions that they feel embarrassed about.”

Questions like, how does being a contractor change their return?

“As a contractor this means you are running a business,” Dr Belle Isle said.

“This income is likely to be taxable and will need to be declared in their income tax returns.

“However, unlike employee wages, with this contractor income there is unlikely to be any pre-payment of tax before your pay lands in your bank account.”

Dr Belle Isle said this means contractors need to save for this eventual tax payment and student tax advisers at the clinic can help clients to figure out the best process, including how to lodge their business activity statements and returns.

At Griffith Tax Clinic, student advisers provide free advice to anyone without a registered tax agent, completing tax returns and answering tax queries under the supervision of experienced tax practitioners.

The clinic also complements a new Taxation major available as part of Griffith’s Bachelor of Business.

Dr Belle Isle said the tax clinic was a great chance for students to apply knowledge taught in hypothetical scenarios to real client situations.

Griffith Tax Clinic spent a period of time online in 2020.

“The clinic provides students with an opportunity to work in a fully functioning tax practitioners office,” she said.

“They have an opportunity to learn common administrative tasks and it introduces them to learning how to engage with clients, some who are financially vulnerable or under extreme stress.

“It also introduces some students to the importance of volunteering their time to important matters in the community and it could improve their future employment opportunities as they have experience that other graduates may not possess.”

Since starting in Trimester 2, 2019, 54 student tax advisers have been part of Griffith Tax Clinic.

Those students have answered almost 500 client enquiries and held more than 20 community presentations, including to local schools.

The clinic recently moved back to in-person sessions at Griffith’s Logan campus, after spending much of 2020 online.

“The 2020 and online experience has taught us all to be more flexible,” Dr Belle Isle said.

“Where once we may have insisted that clients need to attend our Logan office, we now realise that we can engage with clients in person, over the phone or using online meeting software.”

Dr Belle Isle said students enjoyed the camaraderie of working as a team for the trimester and the ability to help members of the public.

“Students love being able to help people overcome their tax concerns and help to improve the tax knowledge of others,” she added.