Curtis Island worker's tax claims challenge rejected

A TRIBUNAL has reached a decision on a case questioning the legitimacy of work-related claims made for a former Bechtel worker's tax returns.

The Australian Appeals Tribunal has rejected the challenge to Australian taxation law put forward by Corporate Accountants, labelling some justification for the claims as "vague".

An aerial view of the three LNG projects on Curtis Island all with ships at their jetties. Santos GLNG in the foreground, Queensland Curtis LNG in the middle and Australia Pacific LNG in the background. The first of two GLNG production trains was handed over to the customer, Santos, in October 2015. The GLNG project is one of three plants built by Bechtel on Curtis Island, near Gladstone in Queensland, Australia. The projects, QCLNG, GLNG and Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) will have a capacity to produce 25 million tonnes of LNG per annum when complete in 2016.
An aerial view of the three liquefied natural gas plants on Curtis Island, constructed by Bechtel. Ashley Roach - Fullframe Photogr

The test case, put before the tribunal in April last year, was finalised on Friday.

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.

Bechtel's tax saga | 

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

The ATO repeatedly urged workers to resubmit their taxes while Corporate Accountants, which represented hundreds of Bechtel workers, stood by its firm's work.

In the test case, the pipe fitter argued he and other tradespeople would take a tool bag on the ferry to work at Curtis Island.

But AAT deputy president Ian Molloy was "not satisfied" the worker's claim for tool expenses of $945 was correct.

TAX LETTER: It's the letter no one want to receive -- a letter from the tax man. But hundreds of Bechtel workers received letters from the Australia Taxation Office telling them they hadn't completed their tax correctly.
TAX LETTER: It's the letter no one want to receive -- a letter from the tax man. But hundreds of Bechtel workers received letters from the Australia Taxation Office telling them they hadn't completed their tax correctly.

The former Bechtel worker admitted he thought his claim "was barely a quarter" of that amount, about $240.

His mobile phone claim of $519 was also dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

"The only evidence in support [of the worker's] claim are Telstra accounts," Mr Molloy said.

"There is no break-down on the accounts showing calls or other usage.

"There is nothing to say where any calls were made from, their time, or duration."

Mr Molloy described the documentation behind the overtime meal expenses as "vague".

The Commissioner allowed $1876 of the worker's $4986 claimed for overtime meals, leaving more than $3000 in claims as incorrect.

Bechtel workers issued new tax returns following the audit in 2015. Gladstone accountants and tax agents were also interviewed as part of the investigations.

How it unfolded |