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'Bechtel saga is over': Lawyers reject class action

REJECTED: Shine Lawyers declines class action case against Bechtel.
REJECTED: Shine Lawyers declines class action case against Bechtel. Paul Braven GLA100915TAX

CURTIS Island workers involved in a battle against Bechtel and the Australian Taxation Office's mass audit on their claims have been told the saga "is now over".

A proposed class action against Bechtel over travel allowances for Curtis Island workers will not progress, Corporate Accountants owner Bob Lamont said.

Travel and ferry allowance claims were at the centre of the proposed class action, which followed a mass audit by the Australian Taxation Office on Bechtel workers in 2015 that found inconsistencies between workers' claims.

More than 3000 workers' tax returns were forcibly adjusted, following stern warnings late in 2015 while more than 2600 adjusted theirs voluntarily.

Mr Lamont said there were 1380 accountants and tax agents with clients involved in the audit.

In a statement published online, Mr Lamont blamed "the unions" for Shine Lawyers' decision not to move forward with a class action against Bechtel on behalf of his clients.

"Like you will be, we are dumb-founded that our attempt on your behalf to get a class action under way against Bechtel has failed," Mr Lamont said.

"It has apparently failed because your unions handed to Bechtel the right to ignore the terms of the employment contract you signed with them in return for a travel and ferry allowance.

"But now it's over, the whole Bechtel saga is over for us and you ... I repeat absolutely nothing more can be done, shitty as it all is."

In May the Australian Appeals Tribunal rejected a challenge to the Australian taxation law put forward by Corporate Accountants, as a test case on behalf of a Bechtel worker.

The tribunal found work-related claims including for overtime meals, mobile phone bills and tool expenses were not legitimate.

The Observer is awaiting a response from multiple unions and the Tax Practitioners Board.

Timeline

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.

May 2017: Test case rejected by AAT

December 2017: Proposed class action against Bechtel canned

Topics:  australian taxation office bechtel curtis island gladstoneindustry



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