Australian packaging family the Pratts starts appeal of AU$20M in taxes government says are owed since 1999, does not include more than AU$200M in taxes already in dispute; Pratts' Visy, Amcor compensate victims of alleged cartel

LOS ANGELES , December 14, 2011 () – Heirs of Richard Pratt’s Australia-based packaging empire are taking their dispute with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) over nearly AU$20 million (US$19.8 million) in past due taxes to court, reported The Age on Dec. 15.

It’s just the latest round of legal battles over taxes the government claims the Pratts owe. Nine of the family’s companies have filed appeals in Federal Court over tax bills adding up to more than $200 million.

The latest tax dispute comes as the Pratts’ Visy Industries Ltd. and rival Amcor Ltd., both headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, paid $97 million to victims of the two packaging companies’ alleged price-fixing cartel, The Age reported.

The money distribution was finally settled with companies involved in the six-year lawsuit over the charges, said the law firm Marurice Blackburn on Dec 14.

The Pratts’ tax fight has been building since at least 2008, when the ATO issued a new assessment of $18.3 million in income taxes past due since 1999, according to court documents, reported The Age.

The amount represents a transfer of tax losses from a Pratt joint venture with Lachlan Resources that was used by the Pratt family to offset their taxes for the year ended June 30, 1999.

ATO is seeking an additional $1.65 million in penalties, bringing the total due to $19.95 million, according to court documents, The Age reported.

The companies involved include Visy Board Properties, which is disputing $8.6 million in tax and penalties, and Visy Paper Technology, which is disputing about $5 million in taxes and penalties.

Both companies claim that the ATO gave them a private binding ruling in February 1998 indicating that they were entitled to the deduction, which applied under the law at the time, the court documents indicate.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission dropped charges against Richard Pratt for the alleged Visy-Amcor cartel shortly before he died in 2009, reported The Age.

The primary source of this article is The Age, Melbourne, Australia, on Dec. 15, 2011.

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