Curtin | The tax clinic initiative | free tax services for vulnerable communities

Curtin University
Awards category
The Community Champion Award
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The tax system, whether you earn income or not, can be complex and many social service payments are linked to people meeting their tax obligations.  

The Curtin Tax Clinic was created with a dual mission – addressing gaps in taxation education delivery and providing access to reliable tax advice for some of the most marginalised segments of society including Indigenous communities in remote Western Australia and prisoners.  

The clinic – comprising students, academics, and tax practitioners – offers free and proficient tax assistance to eligible, vulnerable community members.

Eligible taxpayers facing financial hardship, abuse, incarceration, homelessness, or lacking access to reliable tax advice benefit from our comprehensive services. The clinic’s operations are structured around four key pillars: assistance, representation, education and advocacy.

In 2023, the clinic successfully assisted over 1,000 taxpayers, completed more than 3,000 tax returns, 320 business activity statements, and received referrals from over 30 community organisations including the Salvation Army, National Debt Line, St Vincent De Paul Society, RedCross, Street Law, Indigenous corporations, and government entities such as the ATO, Centrelink, Inspector General of Taxation, Tax Practitioners Board and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Working one-on-one with community members, the clinic advocates on behalf of their clients, ensuring their voices are heard regarding the difficulties they encounter based on their circumstances.

Finalists - Annette Morgan, Violet Lim, Ning Leelaswatanakul, Lora Whittington and Monique Eeson

"On behalf of Marra Worra Worra (MWW) and the entire Fitzroy Crossing community, we want to extend our deepest gratitude for the incredible support and assistance your Curtin Tax Clinic Team provided during your visit. Your dedication to offering free tax services to our community has made a remarkable impact, and we truly appreciate your commitment to making a difference.

It’s also good to hear that your experience in Fitzroy Crossing has been productive and a valuable learning opportunity for your students and staff. Your willingness to adapt to the unique circumstances of Indigenous communities is commendable, and we understand that managing unexpected situations is part of the process when working in such diverse settings. The effort you put into making bookings for the community members was instrumental, even though we understand there were some missed appointments and walk-ins without prior arrangements. Your understanding of the cultural dynamics and willingness to accommodate these situations with grace is truly admirable.

Your commitment to providing pro bono tax services has been nothing short of remarkable. We are delighted with the positive response from the community, and we wholeheartedly share your hope that this marks the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between the Curtin Tax Clinic and MWW. Working together, we can continue to make a significant difference in the lives of community members in Fitzroy Crossing and the surrounding areas.

Your offer to continue supporting our community remotely through online meetings and email communications is highly appreciated. This shows the depth of your commitment to our community's financial well-being and empowerment, and we look forward to exploring these possibilities further. Once again, thank you for your monumental assistance and adaptability during the outreach. Your team's generosity and dedication have left a lasting impact on all of us."

Marcel Sithole

Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation

Denis was recently released from the Karnet Prison where he originally heard about the Curtin Tax Clinic. Shortly after release he attended the Clinic to sign a number of outstanding tax returns which produced an estimated refund of $4,300.

In addition we were also able to help him roll over multiple Super funds and assisted with a withdrawal application in the amount of $32,000 to help him purchase a car. Denis was thrilled with the service and “really appreciated all the help and support” provided by the Clinic.

Denis’ Story

"If I could give any student considering work in the tax field one piece of advice, it would be to join the Curtin Tax Clinic, and get involved in every opportunity they provide for as long a time period as possible. Yes, the Clinic will greatly increase your employability on paper (highest quality practical experience, comprehensive training, building soft skills, and volunteering tick, tick, tick) but this barely scratches the surface as to the kind of personal and professional development opportunities on offer. To begin with, the Clinic offers practical experience in virtually all elements of tax practice, developing skills that students otherwise might not have any exposure to until years into their careers. This includes meeting and signing clients, ascertaining their needs, completing all aspects of work, learning to use professional accounting software, contacting clients, communicating and negotiating with the ATO, and much more.

Some of the highlights of my time at the Clinic include:

  • visiting two prisons and personally signing up over 30 prisoners for the clinic’s services;
  • attending open days, signing on clients, completing returns for ad-hoc clients, and making connections with like-minded people from similar service providers;
  • travelling to multiple high schools including Perth Modern to teach the next generation the basics of our tax system; and
  • accompanying our clients in Court.

There are no shortage of opportunities to develop your soft skills either. An average day at the Clinic will usually include a client interview. As a pro bono clinic, clients come in from all walks of life. The Clinic staff lead by example, showing student how to handle any situation calmly, logically, and professionally. This rubs off on students who gather up a wealth of technical and interpersonal knowledge equipping them to handle any situation that may arise in their future professional practice."

Rick Way

Ex CTC Student

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