Issue 8
Monday, 07 October 2019
Charles Darwin University
Professor Indra Abeysekera
Professor Indra Abeysekera

Tax clinics benefit 200 Territorians

By Patrick Nelson

More than 200 Territorians in the Top End and Central Australia have received free tax advice from Charles Darwin University Accounting students since the tax clinic trial was established in June.

Chair of Accounting and Finance Professor Indra Abeysekera said the government-funded initiative was designed to provide support to unrepresented low-income taxpayers.

“We have confirmed that there is a real need for these clinics,” said Professor Abeysekera who has worked alongside eight Master of Professional Accounting students to provide more than 500 direct contact hours with clients.

“We have provided a wide range of services including tax advisory work, report and filing obligations, debt and payment negotiations and on-going issues with the Australian Tax Office.”

The clinics have been held at the Waterfront campus and at shopping centres in Casuarina, Karama, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs, and at Ngukurr community. 

“We also ran clinics at a public park, Centrelink, and at homes on a needs-basis to reach out to the public,” Professor Abeysekera said.

“We have provided professional advice and guidance to people from all over the world who now call the Territory home.

“Most of our clients were born in Australia but those that weren’t have come from India, China, Philippines, Nepal and about 30 other countries.”

He said that some 62 per cent of clients spoke a first language other than English and that they had ranged in age from less than 18 to one who was in his 80s.

“Our busiest clinics, in terms of the number of clients interviewed in a day, include Karama Shopping Plaza, Katherine Shopping Centre, and Yeperenye Shopping Centre in Alice Springs.”

He said one of the main purposes of the clinics was to give students from the Asia Pacific College of Business and Law some invaluable real-world experience.

The CDU students were supervised by Professor Abeysekera to gain practical hands-on experience of dealing with clients in a real-life setting, which is critical to ensuring that they will be job-ready by the time they complete their qualification.

“We see this as a ‘win-win’ for our students, our clients and the tax system in general,” he said.

The clinics have been made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Australian Tax Office.