Curtis Island Bechtel 'workers flagged as high risk' by ATO

A TAX law expert says workers affected by the Australian Taxation Office's audit being carried out on Curtis Island Bechtel workers can't pursue legal action as a group.

As the audit on thousands of workers deepens, there is a growing discussion on dedicated social media pages among those affected, around legal action against some accountants, or against the ATO.

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

Aerial shot of the LNG proponents on Curtis Island, QGC, APLNG, GLNG. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer
Aerial shot of the LNG proponents on Curtis Island, QGC, APLNG, GLNG. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer Mara Pattison-Sowden

But Think Legal Principal Paul Flintoft, who has previously worked at the tax office, said the case doesn't fit within the scope of a class action because each taxpayer's circumstances are unique.

Instead, he says those affected should go to a different accountant for a second opinion on whether the claims were legitimate, and then seek legal advice.

"Those workers need advice on how to extricate themselves from the situation," Mr Flintoft said.

"Because going forward, those individuals' returns will now be flagged in the tax office's records as 'high risk' and the sooner the issue is resolved the better."

>>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



He said if the issue can't be resolved with the tax office, each worker would need to pursue legal action as an individual, although that could involve approaching one lawyer as a group and putting forward a test case.

One accountant has already started legal action in relation to the Bechtel audit.

Corporate Accountants will go before the Australian Administration Tribunal next month for a mediation hearing defending claims the tax office has labelled "incorrect" following a formal objection from a taxpayer.

That's the path Mr Flintoft, who has seen similar situations before, recommended saying if workers disagree with the ATO's adjustments, they need to lodge objections.

"That's the only way to get it changed," Mr Flintoft said.

"I'm not surprised this relates to a specific group from Gladstone.

"Once one person who works in an industry receives a larger return, they tell people and then everyone will go and see the same agent.

"They'll get that same deduction for three or four years until the ATO decides to do a 'project'."