NUI Galway has opened Ireland’s first free tax clinic to teach students how to manage their tax affairs, including their obligations and entitlements.
The services, which will first run for a period of six weeks, will offer students practical information and support on taxes where they have concerns and queries arising from a change in their circumstances, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new clinic is being run be staff and students at the J.E Cairns Business School, as well as external financial advisors.
The service, which is online and fully confidential, is first being used to assist university students, with a view towards extending its services to community groups which are unable to access or afford tax information.
Emer Mulligan, Director of the clinic and Personal Professor in Taxation and Finance said “The backdrop to this clinic is justice. It’s about helping under-represented people.”
“The focus of the clinic is tax education and through that we will help a number of people who would not have realised they had an entitlement to certain tax credits and potentially a tax refund.”
Students seeking advice at the clinic will be asked to consider if they are aware of credits they are entitled to, including for tuition fees, flat rate allowances, medical expenses, or being a single parent or home carer.
The clinic is also helping people whose tax credits were not allocated properly, have multiple jobs, or were in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
“Our mission is to inform and support marginalised citizens in their tax compliance in a free and confidential setting. Plans are underway to extend the service to marginalised community groups in the Galway region.”
Professor Mulligan was inspired to set up the country’s first tax clinic after learning of the success of similar initiatives in the US and Australia.
A pilot clinic was trialled at NUI Galway last year, with roughly 60 students receiving support and information.
A number of external tax advisors were involved in running the pilot, with PwC one of the first to come on board.
Florita Dolly, PwC Tax Advisor, said “This exciting new initiative seeks to make taxpayer assistance more accessible and available to marginalised communities and the wider student population.”
On top of helping students gain information about their taxes, it will also see students earn valuable real-world experience working with professional advisors.