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New ECU Tax Clinic delivers free advice

Friday, 31 July 2020

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Former ATO Assistant Commissioner of Taxation Tim Roach is spearheading WA’s second ‘Tax Clinic’, a service delivering pro bono tax assistance for Perth residents who don’t have a tax agent.

The clinic is an initiative of Edith Cowan University (ECU) where Mr Roach now leads the Executive Education area within the School of Business and Law.

Opening on 3 August, the new clinic will be based in Joondalup and service Perth’s northern corridor.

Mr Roach said tax clinics, which enable university students to provide tax assistance under the supervision of qualified tax professionals and tax teachers, are still a relatively new phenomenon in Australia.

“Tax clinics of this nature have long been established in the US, but are still relatively new in Australia,” he said.

“The services are intended for individuals who do not have a tax agent, and clients are often from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The Tax Clinic model is a win-win one, providing quality advice for people who don’t have a tax agent as well as delivering job-ready experience for business students.”

Top tips for your next return

Mr Roach said COVID-19 had produced some unique considerations for those preparing their 2019/20 tax return. He shared the following tips in response to common questions for this year:

Can I claim deductions for working from home?

  • With so many people working from home (WFH), the ATO has introduced a new ‘shortcut method’ for calculating a deduction for running costs. This new method allows you to claim 80 cents per hour for time worked at home, rather than calculate all your running costs separately. You need to have a timesheet, diary or other means of showing the hours worked from home, but it saves keeping careful records and calculating the work-related portion of your mobile phone, internet, electricity, home office repairs and other running expenses.
  • As an alternative, if you have kept good records you can use the more traditional methods of recording the ‘actual cost’ of the work-related portion of running costs, or you can use the ‘fixed rate’ method. The results from these methods will vary from person to person, but make sure you have the records to substantiate your claim in the case of an ATO review.
  • The ATO website has detailed information about these methods and calculating your WFH expenses.

How do I treat JobKeeper payments in my tax return?

  • If you have received JobKeeper from your employer, you don’t need to do anything different. Your employer will simply include it in the regular salary and wages records they supply to the ATO and in most cases, this will be pre-filled into your tax return.

Where is my Payment Summary/Group Certificate?

  • Employers no longer need to give their employees payment summaries for information reported and finalised through Single Touch Payroll. Instead, employees' income statements are available to them in ATO online services through their myGov account.

When should I do my tax return this year?

  • While you can lodge a tax return from 1 July, for most people it’s better to wait until the end of July or early August. This is because the ATO is increasingly using data from employers, banks and other sources to put some information directly into your tax return (known as ‘pre-fill’) and it can take three or four weeks for this data to be provided to the ATO. You can check the pre-fill data and add anything that was not provided before lodging your tax return.

The ECU Tax Clinic will operate from 3 August 2020 at the Joondalup Campus (270 Joondalup Drive). To make enquiries, please email taxclinic@ecu.edu.au or visit www.ecu.edu.au/the-ecu-tax-clinic.

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