Accountant says tax sheet for Bechtel workers has errors

A GLADSTONE accountant has challenged the Australian Taxation Office over its interpretation of tax law.

In a brief statement to The Observer, Corporate Accountant chief executive Bob Lamont - who is so popular he is often fully booked months in advance - said a brochure issued by the ATO and handed out by Bechtel staff to employees this week "contain(ed) factual errors and misrepresent(ed) tax law".

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The company's website states the firm has led tax cases that have gone as far as the High Court of Australia.

Mr Lamont would not elaborate on his criticism of the fact sheet, but according to the tax office the issue is black and white.

The fact sheet, which The Observer understands has been given to 10,000 workers on Curtis Island, clarifies what can and can't legitimately be claimed, particularly surrounding allowances including tools, meals, accommodation and travel.

In response to Mr Lamont's claim, the ATO stood by the information provided and has "strongly encouraged" workers to review their tax returns in light of the advice offered in the fact sheet.

The Australian Tax Office fact sheet specifically for workers on Curtis Island.
The Australian Tax Office fact sheet specifically for workers on Curtis Island. ATO

"The ATO position is firmly based in tax law," an ATO spokesperson said.

Yesterday, The Observer revealed the tax office had been working closely with Bechtel after it was alerted to potentially misleading advice, and had invited workers of the company to resubmit their returns.

It's believed the number of employees who could have submitted false claims on their returns this year could be as high as 5000.

The tax office found the irregularities after it carried out its own analysis.

Some claims were "higher than expected" compared to other employees on Curtis Island with the same allowances and under the same employment conditions.

Sothertons accountant Steve Marsten said it was important for taxpayers not to stick their heads in the sand.

"Now people will have these huge tax bills and I do feel sorry for them," Mr Marsten said.

Employees who amend their tax returns before October 31, including for previous years, are expected to escape penalties.