COVID-19 may complicate income tax returns

Tax can be a big stressor at the best of times and when it comes to EOFY 2019-20, it will be uncharted territory for many, according to Professor Brett Freudenberg from the Griffith Tax Clinic.

“It’s always preferable to have your tax returns up to date, but given the circumstances – that many government benefits require it – it’s perhaps more pertinent this year,” Professor Freudenberg said.

“Not to mention we’ve seen how important government spending of tax dollars is when it comes to dealing with a crisis.”

Many workers have had a disruptive year: whether they worked from home for months on end, accessed government benefits directly or indirectly through their employer, or worked in a different field.

Luckily for those who fall into the first category, working from home, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has introduced a special COVID rate for calculating income tax return deductions.

Professor Freudenberg describes the COVID rate as ‘nice and simple’.

“People who worked from home between 1 March-30 June 2020 can multiply the number of hours they worked at home by $0.80 and claim it as a deduction,” Professor Freudenberg said.

“It’s quite generous,” he added, “and if you think the $0.80 isn’t right, you can always do the alternative.”

People who worked from home prior to 1 March 2020 or who had greater expenditure, can follow the ATO’s standard rules or calculate the actual costs of their home office to deduct.

The Griffith Tax Clinic regularly holds seminars for the public on tax matters and while observing social distancing, has continued to do so on YouTube.

The clinic will operate remotely 9am-4pm Wednesdays and Thursdays for the duration of Trimester Two. Griffith tax students supervised by experienced tax practitioners will conduct their client meetings online.

The clinic is set up to provide advice for small and micro businesses, including the sharing economy.

Members of the public, who don’t already have a registered tax agent, can apply for tax advice from the Clinic.

“People might have lost their jobs in COVID-19 and started Uber driving and they might want to clarify what that means in terms of deductions,” Professor Freudenberg said.

“We are happy to help.

“It’s a really meaningful experience for our students in terms of client interaction and using modern technology now that we’re online.”

Register for Griffith Tax Clinic online at griffith.edu.au/griffith-tax-clinic

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