It’s hard to remember a year as relentlessly tough as 2020, what with the fires, the smoke, flooding and the worst pandemic in a century, so you probably don’t want a reminder that it’s also tax time.
But it’s not all bad news.
Students from the Australian National University (ANU) are offering free tax assistance through the 2020 ANU Tax Clinic. The service is available by phone and video-conferencing to help Canberrans and Southern NSW residents navigate the new COVID-19 tax measures which were introduced this year.
The service covers the ACT, Yass, Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Jindabyne, Cooma and the south coast region from Eurobodalla down to Eden.
“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,” said Dr Sonali Walpola from the ANU’s Research School of Accounting.
“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.”
Only people who earn under $60,000 and are not represented by a tax agent are eligible for the service. The service is targeted towards students, migrants and first-time taxpayers.
Dr Walpola says taxpayers can have their questions answered within half-an-hour of making a phone call.
“COVID-19 has made it difficult for people in regional areas to access services,” she 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.”
Graduate Ben Raines worked at the tax clinic last year and says students are able to implement the knowledge they learned from their studies.
“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,” said Mr Raines, who now works at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a consultant.
The clinics will operate for 11 weeks from 12 August to 23 October.
Tax returns are due by 31 October.