Friday July 6,2012 :  AUSSIE GAMBLING TAX CASE COULD SET AN IMPORTANT PRECEDENT
 
Art-loving punter in tussle with Australian Tax Office
 
Tax moves against a wealthy Australian art lover who made his fortune on major sports wagers in Hobart, Tasmania, could set a precedent for gamblers Downunder, the Australian Broadcasting Corportion reported Thursday.
 
51-year-old university drop-out David Walsh developed a successful gambling syndicate used to bet on horse racing and other sports. Reports estimate that the Punters Club placed at least a billion dollars with major Aussie bookies, but its success has attracted the unwelcome attention of the Australian Tax Office, which is trying to hit Walsh up for around A$ 40 million in retroactive taxes.
 
Walsh spoke out against the ATO's attempt this week, telling ABC that he rejected tax officials' claims that his syndicate had destroyed records and used encryption software to conceal data.
 
Instead, he says he asked the ATO on several occasions over the past two decades if he was liable to pay tax and was told he was not.
 
"They always decided that gambling isn't taxable, perhaps because no gambler has ever been taxed, or perhaps they're concerned about the possibility of some losing gamblers claiming a deduction," Walsh said, who has been supported in his resistance to the tax office by former Greens Party leader Bob Brown.
 
"The tax office has bungled this and has been quite unfair about it, and they're to blame," he told ABC.
 
The ATO has filed documents alleging Walsh has an interest in the highly successful Punters' Club as it seeks to resolve the matter in the courts. The filed documents contain allegations that the syndicate attempted to hide details of its A$2.4 billion operation by destroying business records and using encryption software to conceal data.
 
Walsh denies the claims, and says he has never been asked for his email records. "So they don't know whether I use encryption or how often," he says.
 
Walsh's main objection to the tax claim is that it is retrospective; he says he has no problem with paying legally due tax to the government, and that he is still hopeful that a negotiated settlement can be reached.