The three Curtis Island LNG plants were built by Bechtel.
The three Curtis Island LNG plants were built by Bechtel. Ashley Roach - Fullframe Photogr

Bechtel tax saga rakes up more than $50k in fines

MORE than $50,000 in fines have been issued to workers involved in the 2015 Bechtel tax saga after a fifth person was charged last month.

The five employees of an engineering firm, who worked for Bechtel during the construction of the three Curtis Island LNG plants, have been convicted and fined for making false work-related expense claims.

The Australian Taxation Office audited more than 5000 Bechtel workers' tax returns in 2015 after it found "unusual patterns" between tax returns.

More than 3000 tax returns were forcibly changed due to stern warnings from the ATO, while more than 2600 adjusted theirs voluntarily.

The ATO's main concerns were claims for car and travel expenses.

"Checks with the employer confirmed the company reimbursed all drive-in, drive-out employees for their travel expenses and that they were not entitled to claim any costs in their tax returns," the ATO said.

Details about the convictions by Townsville, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Latrobe Valley courts have been published on the ATO's website to warn people against tax-related crime.

Ralph Mueller is the most recent person convicted for making a false and misleading statement.

Mueller faced Brisbane Magistrates Court on April 16 and was fined $500 and ordered to pay an additional $8000.

As part of its audit the ATO met with registered agents of affected employees and provided a tailored website, email and hotline for Bechtel workers.

A fact sheet was also issued to workers with their payslips.

"While most employees chose to voluntarily amend their tax returns some declined the opportunity or continued to claim incorrect WRE deductions," the ATO said.

"This resulted in the conviction of five Bechtel employees for falsely claiming WRE and they have been ordered to pay a total of $54,315 in orders and fines."

Other convictions:

Michael Doon was convicted in the Southport Magistrates Court on October 15, 2018, for making a false and misleading statement. He received a $700 fine and was ordered to pay an additional $7840.

Ralph Mueller was convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on April 16, 2019, for making a false and misleading statement. He received a $500 fine and was ordered to pay an additional $8000.

Arnulfo Elpa was convicted in the Townsville Magistrates Court on October 8, 2018, for recklessly making a false or misleading statement (s8N). He received a $1000 fine and was ordered to pay an additional $9509.

Phillip Frid was convicted in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on October 12, 2018, for recklessly making a false or misleading statement (s8N). He received a $1000 fine and was ordered to pay an additional $19,766.

Phillip Presley was convicted in the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court on October 16, 2018, for recklessly making a false or misleading statement (s8N). He received a $6000 fine.



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