Curtis Island workers waiting on audit can still dodge fines

CURTIS Island Bechtel workers appear to be experiencing a softer side to the Australian Taxation Office with yet another chance to dodge fines.

More than 1000 workers have already come forward to amend their returns after the tax office discovered inconsistencies in claims, particularly surrounding allowances such as meals and travel.

They began urging workers to revisit their returns in September, including for previous years.

And despite giving workers a deadline of October 28 to do so, the tax office now says anyone who comes forward before receiving an audit letter won't be penalised.

Workers started receiving the letters last month and the process will continue into the New Year.

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The tax office won't reveal how many have already been sent, but we understand a majority of workers are yet to be contacted.

This paper understands some workers are holding out because they believe their claims are legitimate, or, because they are waiting for a court case they've been told will validate their claims.

The ATO says it understands "some agents" have taken a different view on expense claims, but stand by their interpretation of the tax law and aren't afraid to settle it once and for all in a court.

"We welcome the opportunity for this matter to come before the courts, bringing certainty to all those involved," an ATO spokesperson said.

Audit letters outline proposed adjustments, the penalties the ATO intends to apply, which can be up to 70% of the return for one year, and the ATO's reasoning for the changes.

If a worker disagrees, they can lodge an objection and the claims will be independently reviewed.

The next step is to dispute the adjustment in court.

Read the ATO's detailed examples on claiming expenses, specifically for Bechtel workers here.

Follow this reporter on Twitter @helenspelitis