A Singapore billionaire's son faces a $28 million tax bill in Australia after ignoring orders in his father's will

The Suncorp building in Sydney. Photo: Anoek de Groot/AFP/Getty Images

When billionaire department-store founder Tee Peng Tay died in 2013, aged 92, his will instructed his six children to sell his property assets in four countries, including Australia, and split the cash.

The Australian reports that the offspring of the Singaporean founder of OG (Ocean Garment) divided up the estate instead, with the youngest son, Tay Chwan Yi, inheriting the Australian assets, which included a multi-million dollar apartment in the Bennelong building next to the Sydney Opera House and the Suncorp building in the CBD, through Tay senior’s $400 million private real estate investment company, Memocorp Australia.

The will had its own quirks, with his wife missing out, and two daughters receiving modest provisions alongside a university. The balance of the estate was split between the four remaining children with Tay’s eldest son receiving 31%, CY Tay 29% and two other daughters 20% each.

The four wanted preserve their father’s legacy and keep the companies rather than selling them.

Under the 2014 deal between the family members CY Tay would sell his shares in OG to his brother and others in a Chinese fashion business to his sisters in return for all 33 million Memocorp shares.

That’s when the NSW Chief Commissioner of State Revenue stepped in over the Sydney assets, arguing that CY Tay was now a landlord, and thus owed $25.9 million in land tax, along with an interest bill of nearly $2 million.

The argument ended up in the NSW Supreme Court, which ruled against Tay over the transfer of the shares. Tay’s lawyers, Allens, argued that they shares were the distribution of the estate, but Justice Richard White ruled that the Memocorp shares were not solely acquired that way.

He concluded that an “additional operative cause of the plaintiff’s acquiring the shares was the agreement of the family members contained in the Deed of Family Agreement (the “DoFA”)”.

Justice White wrote: “The plaintiff acquired the deceased’s shares in Memocorp both as a result of the distribution of the estate and as a result of the other residuary beneficiaries’ consenting to the transfer and thereby surrendering their right themselves to call for a transfer of a proportion of the deceased’s shares in Memocorp, and also agreeing to the additional transfers for which the DoFA provided”.

Essentially, the children did not listen to their father’s advice and the youngest son has been left with the bill in NSW.

The Australian has the full story here.

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