With millions of Australians dealing with the financial fall-out from COVID-19, The Australian National University (ANU) Tax Clinic is expanding to offer more support to people in regional and Indigenous communities.
The ANU Tax Clinic is using new online capabilities to reach people in regional NSW and Victoria, the Northern Territory and even Australian taxpayers living overseas.
The project involves ANU accounting students providing free tax advice to individuals and small businesses under the supervision of volunteer professionals.
ANU academic Dr Sonali Walpola from the Research School of Accounting said since mid-June about 250 people have sought help from the clinic, a big increase from previous years.
"This includes around 80 first-time lodgers," Dr Walpola said.
"Clients range from teenagers with casual jobs to older pensioners.
"We've been able to help people with a huge backlog of returns, as well as small businesses that have recently become profitable after many years of losses but can't afford the services of a private accountant."
The ANU Tax Clinic is now working with several Aboriginal organisations to develop a series of tax workshops catered to Indigenous small businesses.
"My motivation is to help people from my own experiences as a small business owner," said ANU Tax Clinic mentor Ben Ahern, from BLM accounting.
"The beauty of being self-employed is you control your destiny, but it can also be very daunting and stressful."
Carolyn Drury, ANU Tax Clinic Manager, added: "The ANU Tax Clinic is also reaching out to communities of new Australians through its links with migration service organisations.
"We have access to interpreter services and can assist with the whole tax process, from the first step of linking the client's MyGov account to the Australian Tax Office all the way through to finalising the tax return."
More information about the ANU Tax Clinic is available online.