Commencing in March 2019 in Hobart and
Launceston, the UTAS Tax Clinic is a part of the National Tax Clinic program funded by the Commonwealth.
And while face-to-face consultations
have taken a pause this year, the UTAS students who make up the Tax Clinic
staff have maintained their service to clients connection over Zoom.
And it’s something that UTAS Senior
Taxation lecturer and Tax Clinic mentor Dr John McLaren is keen to continue.
“Our objectives are to represent
low-income taxpayers and unrepresented taxpayers,” Dr McLaren said.
“We’re not in competition with the tax
profession … most of our clients either have nil tax returns but they feel they
should be lodging something every year. Or, if you are looking at the average
refund, it’s probably in the nature of about $50 to $100.
Sometimes tax agents don’t have the time to explain things to clients. We explain it to them. We’re a totally free clinic. We don’t charge anyone, but we are happy to give some advice.
"We usually have four or five students rostered on each day of the week. So there is that gaining of some very practical but specialised knowledge. But also just how to listen to clients.”
The Tax Clinic aims
to increase tax literacy within the community, by encouraging clients to lodge
their own tax returns and related documents such as a Business Activity
Statement by themselves. The Clinic also assists taxpayers who have a tax debt
or dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.
But central to the Tax Clinic’s mission is providing real-life experience to business students and readying them for the workforce. Once students have been trained to a competent level, they are able to take consultations on their own.
Master of Professional Accounting student Pei Fern said her involvement with the Clinics had provided
a much-needed dose of real-world experience.
“The application of
knowledge is just as important of studying the knowledge,” she said.
“The Tax Clinic is my
first point where I’ve got involvement in Business Activity Statements, as well
as personal and small-business tax returns, so this is actually helping me to
understand how we can do it for ourself as well as for other people who are in
Master of Professional Accounting student Rui Li said that the Clinics provided an
invaluable opportunity to apply academic knowledge in a practical situation,
with each case unique in its details.
The Tax Clinic provides a good start in our career, and the experience can also be counted as accounting working experience for the CPA program.
Master of Finance
student Amy said a highlight of her experiences with the Clinic was dealing
directly with clients.
“We work in a very
professional tax team. We also learn how to improve our communication skills
during the consultation,” Amy said.
Dr McLaren said
internships had quickly become a sought-after role, primarily because of the
positive effects involvement has on students employability.
“But looking beyond
that huge benefit to students, we are heling the community,” Dr McLaren said,
adding that data privacy was an utmost priority.
“We don’t need the client’s address, we don’t need personal details, we don’t keep Tax File Numbers, but we do keep meticulous notes on what the client needs and what we did for the client.”
Interested in learning more about the Tax Clinic? Visit here.