The UNSW Tax and Business Advisory Clinic has been selected as a finalist in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) 2022 Higher Education Awards.

Designed to acknowledge the contribution of the Higher Education sector to Australian prosperity and quality of life, the AFR Higher Education Awards are open to all institutions, public and private across Australia.

The UNSW Tax and Business Advisory Clinic was selected as a finalist in the category of Community Engagement.

Founded by Associate Professor Ann Kayis-Kumar; Professor Michael Walpole (UNSW Business School); and Dr Jack Noone (Centre for Social Impact at UNSW Business School) in 2019, the clinic works with students and volunteer tax agents to provide independent, free and confidential tax advice for individuals and small business owners in severe financial distress and strives to contribute to a more just society by addressing deeper systemic injustices at the frontline. 

Entries in the Community Engagement category were assessed and accepted on the strength of their community impact, student impact, collaborations, innovation, value, sustainability and scalability.

Professor Walpole says that the community-led approach of the UNSW Tax and Business Advisory Clinic serves and engages with communities and people in financial hardship across NSW by partnering with the community sector to identify and support clients who would otherwise not have access to independent professional tax advice.

“We identify otherwise unmet needs in our clients and support them through cross-referrals with social workers, mental health support workers, financial counsellors and pro bono lawyers.”

The founders say what makes the Clinic so special is that it serves a dual purpose in both focusing on those in need and employing tax agents to train students to support clients.

"It is possible in Australia to have problems with the tax system and have no money to get professional help to address them,” explains Professor Walpole. “All too often we find our clients’ tax debts are the result of failed or abusive relationships or the result of misadventure.”

“We help those genuinely in need providing the professional support that commercial tax agents and accountants cannot afford to give.”

T3 2021 Tax Clinic Team. Photo: supplied

Going forward, the UNSW Tax and Business Advisory Clinic has plans to expand and offer advice to small businesses and have a pressing need for support that helps them understand and meet their tax and other regulatory obligations.

“Our new initiative is to provide coaching for failed or start-up micro businesses to set them up for success in managing cash flow; meeting tax and regulatory deadlines; and managing their accounting records to set them up for success and a healthy relations ship with an accountant of their choosing,” says Professor Walpole.

The founders also have a strong research arm that looks at systems that are helping and hindering clients.

“One of our projects examines the issues that small business owners face when dealing the tax system,” explains Dr Noone. “We’re currently speaking with financial counsellors, tax agents and our own clients to make recommendations on how the tax and transfer system could be improved.”

Another research project focuses on referral pathways for the Clinic, says Dr Noone.

“This project will develop an effective way of referring people across different types of services (for example, domestic and family violence, mental health, financial counselling and the Tax Clinic) to improve service delivery and better track client outcomes over time.”

For more information or to find out how you can work with the UNSW Tax and Business Advisory Clinic, you can head to their website.