Ireland’s first free tax clinic has been set up in NUI Galway to educate students about their entitlements, obligations, and how to manage their tax affairs.
The pioneering initiative will see tax students in the JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics work in partnership with teaching staff and professional external tax advisors in providing an online and confidential service.
The NUI Galway Tax Clinic is being established initially to assist the university’s students, with a view to extending its services to community groups which are unable to access or afford tax information.
The service will run for at least six weeks at first, offering practical tax information and support to students with tax concerns and queries arising from a change in their circumstances, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The backdrop to this clinic is justice,” said Emer Mulligan, director of the clinic and personal professor in taxation and finance at NUI Galway. “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, as well as others whose credits were not allocated correctly, or 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 under way to extend the service to marginalised community groups in the Galway region.”
A pilot tax clinic was trialled in NUI Galway last year where around 60 students received personal tax information and support. 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. PwC Galway are delighted to be supporting this initiative.”
The NUI Galway Tax Clinic will also see students earn valuable real-world experience working with professional advisors, including some NUI Galway alumni who are working on a pro bono basis.
Students seeking advice at the clinic will be asked to consider if they are aware of tax credits they are entitled to, including for tuition fees, flat rate allowances, medical expenses, or being a single parent or home carer. It also asks if they have been employed in the previous four years, if they work multiple jobs, if they received the PUP and know how it is taxed, and if they are planning to go overseas.
Professor Mulligan was inspired to set up the tax clinic after learning of the success of initiatives in the USA and Australia where they have expanded and secured support from tax authorities with most of the clinics affiliated with academic institutions.