To help reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, including the tax burden, Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert has announced that the Federal Government has allocated $1 million to set up 10 tax clinics under a trial program based on the Curtin University Tax Clinic.
Each clinic will receive up to $100,000 for 12 months to support unrepresented individual or small business taxpayers by providing general taxation advice and helping them with their tax obligations and reporting requirements. The clinics, through identifying issues and building greater understanding of the tax system in operation, are also designed to improve the interactions that small businesses and individual taxpayers have with the ATO. The clinics will cover advice, representation, education and advocacy.
The 10 clinics will be established in major and regional universities across the country that already have complementary courses and faculties, providing broad coverage across Australia. The shortlisted universities are: ANU, Charles Darwin University, Curtin University, Griffith University, James Cook University, University of Adelaide, University of Melbourne, UNSW, University of Tasmania and the University of Western Sydney.
While this trial includes 10 universities to keep the size manageable, the government wants broad involvement, and to work with other universities as well in future. This could include looking at partnership models, small grants, research proposals and fresh ideas.
Mr Robert said the government hopes the trial tax clinics will "fill a gap in the market for those individuals and small businesses that may not be able to afford proper advice and representation".
The tax clinics are also designed to build practical experience for students who are the future of the tax profession. The trial will offer student volunteers the opportunity to work with unrepresented taxpayers under the direct supervision of qualified tax professionals.
The tax clinics are expected to be up and running by March 2019, and the trial will wind up by December 2019.