ATO in $453m fight over Optus sale

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ATO in $453m fight over Optus sale

C&W claims 'error in tax law' meant it paid too much.

The Australian Tax Office is fighting a $453 million legal claim lodged by the former majority owner of Optus over a tax bill associated with its 2001 sale of the telco.

Cable & Wireless held a 53 percent majority share in Optus until 2001, when current parent SingTel launched a takeover bid, offering a number of options including a share buyback.

The company's bid was successful, with Cable & Wireless handing over most of its share pile for $6.2 billion.

But the company has commenced a lawsuit with the Australian Tax Office - as first reported by Fairfax Media

Cable & Wireless claims that only $134.5 million of the $586.9 million it paid in tax to the ATO in September 2001 was legal, according to Fairfax.

Prior to the payment of the tax bill, the ATO had ruled that $3.9 billion of the amount paid to Cable & Wireless by SingTel was a dividend, and therefore taxed at 15 percent.

C&W - which had been wound up following the SingTel deal - applied to be revived as a company in the mid-2013 in its home country the Netherlands in order to put forward its case for a $453 million refund from the ATO.

The company claims an "error of tax law" by C&W and Optus meant that the amount of $3.9 billion was incorrectly deemed to be a dividend, Fairfax reported.

C&W reportedly argued that the $3.9 billion was an amount debited against a share capital account, and therefore not deemed to be a dividend paid by Optus.

The matter is listed for a directions hearing on April 14.

Optus said it was aware of the case but not taking part.

The ATO said it was unable to comment on matters before the court.

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