The Hon Justice Steward of the Federal Court, who is also a Deputy President of the AAT, last week officially launched an initiative to offer pro bono legal advice and support to eligible taxpayers who are seeking an AAT review of a taxation matter. The AAT is piloting the scheme in Victoria with the Tax Bar Association and plans to use it as a model to seek support from across the legal profession in other states and territories.

Head of the AAT’s Tax and Commercial Division, Deputy President Bernard McCabe, worked closely with the profession, including retiring President of the Tax Bar Association, Mr Michael Flynn QC and Anna Wilson, Member of the Tax Bar, to develop the scheme.

Mr Flynn welcomed the launch of the scheme which has been in development for some time. He said “the provision of pro bono assistance is integral to the proper functioning of our legal system. The Tax Bar Association is pleased to be able to extend the Victorian Bar’s long history of providing pro bono assistance to taxpayers appearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.”

Deputy President McCabe agreed the scheme would be of value, saying that, “a significant number of applicants in the Taxation and Commercial Division in the 2017-18 financial year were not legally represented. This pro bono scheme demonstrates the AAT’s commitment to ensuring our processes are accessible.”

Deputy President McCabe concluded “taxation matters tend to be complex and there is strong evidence of the benefits of competent legal advice and representation”.

The AAT also works with pro bono providers like the small business tax clinic at Curtin University and regularly refers applicants to legal aid services in other matters. We are committed to improving access to the AAT for people who may not be able to afford legal representation.

Requests for pro bono assistance may be made directly to the relevant AAT Conference Registrar, District Registrar, Listing Manager or allocated Member.