Former BHP chairman Don Argus takes on the Tax Office over his $15 million SMSF

Cara WatersJanuary 13, 20150 min read

Former chairman of BHP Billiton and chief executive of the National Australia Bank, Don Argus, is embroiled in a legal battle with the Australian Tax Office over his superannuation.

The ATO wants to charge tax on almost $1.2 million in income earned by the $15 million self-managed superannuation fund of the elder statesman and his wife, Patricia.

Argus, who is now chairman of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Australia Advisory Board, claims the income should be tax free.

On 16 April 2014 the Argus’s objected to the ATO’s assessment of income tax issued to their SMSF for the year ended 30 June 2010.

On 29 September 2014 the ATO disallowed the objection and so the Argus’s have now filed an application for the decision to be varied in the Federal Court.

The Argus’s are seeking an almost $1.2 million reduction on the tax paid by them for the 2010 tax year claiming the assessment of $2.25 million in tax is “excessive” because it wrongly concluded the SMSF did not pay out the minimum amount required.

Graham Colley, director of technical and professional standards at the SMSF Professionals’ Association, said with a $15 million fund value the minimum amount of pension to be paid should be around $900,000. 

“[SMSF trustees] need to make sure you pay the minimum amount of your pension for the year,” he says.

“You can do it simply by making sure you have direct debits into your bank account.”

Colley advises SMSF trustees also need to make sure the valuation of the investments are made so the calculation of the amount has been correctly done. 

“Even if you have underpaid a small amount the commissioner will exercise his powers of administration providing you make up the shortfall as soon as it is discovered,” he says.

“Make sure you know when your pension starts, make sure you know when it stops and one of the standards to qualify as a pension is to make sure you pay the minimum amount.”

Fairfax reports the dispute is scheduled for a court hearing in Melbourne on 2 Februrary.

SmartCompany contacted Argus but did not receive a response prior to publication.  The ATO declined to comment.

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Cara Waters

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