After a difficult financial year with bushfires and COVID-19, help is at hand with students at the Australian National University (ANU) assisting taxpayers with their income tax obligations.
Students operating the 2020 ANU Tax Clinic will help people navigate the new COVID-19 tax measures, backed by tax professionals from the community.
The service will reach more people this year, extending beyond Canberra to Southern NSW and will operate exclusively by phone and video-conferencing to comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
Dr Sonali Walpola said the 2020 tax return had several new elements to it due to COVID-19.
"Tax time can be stressful at the best of times. But people may have additional questions due to the COVID-19 tax measures, with Jobkeeper payments administered by the ATO and with a simplified process for some deductions now being possible," she said.
"This year, we're expecting lots of questions about deductions for home office expenses.
"The government has introduced a temporary short-cut method of 80 cents per hour for home running costs for the huge number of people working from home due to COVID-19, so now, more than ever, the ANU Tax Clinic will be really useful to people."
To be eligible, you must be unrepresented by a tax agent and have an individual income of under $60,000.
Dr Walpola said the service may be particularly appealing to students, migrants, or anyone doing their tax returns for the first time.
"COVID-19 has made it difficult for people in regional areas to access services," Dr Walpola said.
"The beauty of the ANU Tax Clinic this year is that people won't even have to leave their homes to take advantage of this free service.
"It will be a quick and easy phone call or video conference meeting organised by ANU and half an hour later people should have their questions answered and the information they need."
The extended service will cover the ACT, Yass, Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Jindabyne, Cooma and the south coast region from Eurobodalla down to Eden.
ANU Graduate Ben Raines, who worked in the Tax Clinic trial last year, is now a consultant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
"My internship with the ANU Tax Clinic was a really rewarding experience. It personally changed me as I was able to make a difference in the community, using the knowledge I had obtained through my degrees and helping people in need," he said.
The clinics will operate for 11 weeks from August 12 to October 23 to coincide with the period before tax returns are due on October 31.