Bechtel workers: our tax claims are legitimate

THE taxman is waving the big stick but Bechtel workers don't appear to be going weak at the knees - they are not rushing to re-submit their tax returns.

Two have even spoken out, putting their case why they think their claims for refunds are valid, despite the Australian Tax Office saying it will audit up to 10,000 workers if they haven't resubmitted returns by October 31.

Others say their accountants have told them not to worry.

The ATO says it will issue more information next week and in the meantime anxiety and confusion are thriving.

ATO believes false claims are being made on car allowances, meal allowances and excessive claims for items such as phone bills, tools and internet.

More than 70% of the 13,000 workers on Curtis Island have made claims for carrying "bulky tools" to and from work. And considering Bechtel says it supplies all the tools, that appears an unusually high number.

We spoke to one of those workers - he received $10,000 back on his tax return and has no plans to re-submit it.

He has no doubt his claim for carrying $1200 worth of his tools to and from the island is legitimate because he won't risk having them stolen.

"I'm not going to re-submit my taxes because I haven't done anything wrong," he said.

"If they want to audit me then fine. If it turns out I owe something then I will deal with it then," the worker, who did not want to be named, told us.

"If we have been given wrong advice from tax agents about claims, there needs to be some accountability.

"Bechtel says they supply secure lock-up boxes so people don't have to carry tools back and forth, but about 100 people have access to that and there are no personal lock-ups.

"I have had an entire tool belt stolen before, small hand tools - literally you go on a lunch break and come back to find everything gone.''

Bechtel didn't deny theft was a problem on Curtis Island. Its only statement on the current situation was that it's "an issue between the ATO and the individuals concerned".

A Gladstone police Crime Investigation Bureau spokesman said if there was a problem with tool theft on Curtis Island, they weren't aware of it.

One woman - who does her husband's taxes - told us she didn't understand why she couldn't claim for meals.

Bechtel supplies workers with all meals, but the woman said her husband had become sick of camp food doing the "suicide shift" of four weeks on, one week off, and had bought other meals in Gladstone.

"Where in the tax legislation does it state if a company provides food and the guys don't eat that but buy their own food instead, that they can't claim it?" she said.



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