ATO reveals extent of Bechtel tax crackdown

BECHTEL workers employed on Curtis Island are still being audited, the Australian Tax Office has revealed.

The Australian Tax Office has confirmed more than 3000 workers' tax returns have so far been forcibly adjusted following stern warnings late 2015, while more than 2600 adjusted theirs voluntarily.

The ATO has advised Bechtel employees to resubmit their tax. Photo Paul Braven / The Observer
The ATO has advised Bechtel employees to resubmit their tax. Photo Paul Braven / The Observer Paul Braven GLA100915TAX

The new figures have been revealed to The Observer following the Administrative Appeals Tribunal rejecting a challenge to the ATO's position on work-related expenses.

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A spokesman for the ATO said the decision reinforced the "three golden rules" when it comes to claims.

"Our position is and always has been to ensure that taxpayers claim deductions to everything they are entitled to," the ATO spokesman said.

"The ATO welcomes the decision made by the tribunal which reinforces the ATO's three golden rules to claiming work-related expenses."


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A spokesperson said the "vast majority" of the Bechtel audit was complete.

Those golden rules are: you must have actually spent the money and not have been reimbursed, the costs must be directly related to earning your income, and you must have records to prove claims.

The Australian Appeals Tribunal rejected the challenge to the Australian taxation law put forward by Gladstone accounting firm Corporate Accountants 13 months after it was first brought to the AAT.

The tribunal found work-related claims including for overtime meals, mobile phone bills and tool expenses were not legitimate. The decision follows a mass audit completed by the Australian Taxation Office on Bechtel workers in 2015, which found inconsistencies between workers' claims.

In an open letter in November 2015, ATO assistant commissioner Adam Kendrick said the ATO's investigations confirmed "large numbers" of Bechtel workers had made errors in their returns.

2015 |

>>FEB. 10 Tax firm makes official complaint to ATO

>> NOV. 20 Last chance for Bechtel employees to fix tax

>> OCT. 28 ATO releases details on Curtis Island Bechtel claims

>> OCT. 23 Thousands of Curtis Island workers sweat on giant tax audit

>> SEP. 11 Accountant says tax sheet for Bechtel workers has errors

2016 | 

>> MAY 19 I'll do what it takes to fight the ATO: Bechtel worker

>>MAY 26 Curtis Island Bechtel 'workers flagged as high risk' by ATO

>> DEC 6 Bechtel workers await fate in ATO challenge

Mr Kendrick said the ATO's position was based on "well-established facts and law".

"...Just because a taxpayer has an allowance doesn't necessarily mean they can claim it in their return, they have to have spent the money and it must relate to their work."

No other challenges have been brought before the AAT regarding Curtis Island workers' claims, the ATO said.

"The ATO is not aware of any further applications having been lodged by Bechtel employees to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to their work-related expense claim,'' a spokesman said.


October 2015: ATO issues threats to around 1000 Curtis Island Bechtel workers demanding they amend tax returns.

February 2016: Gladstone accountancy firm Corporate Accountants lodges formal complaint about the audit with national tax office.

April 2016: Bechtel "test case'' put before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

May 19, 2016: 2000 Bechtel workers fined for failing to resubmit tax returns.

December 2016: Corporate Accountants continues challenging its case before a tribunal against the ATO.