* Says payments towards claim suspended while case pending
* To ask local authorities to offset payments made so far
* Shares fall 2 pct (Adds details)
Sept 24 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan-focused oil explorer Max Petroleum MXP.L said on Friday it has suspended payments toward a tax claim, after the Kazakhstan Supreme Court reversed the rulings of lower courts that had upheld the claim against the company.
The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Specialized Economic Court of Almaty for reconsideration, the company said in a statement.
“The company continues to believe the tax claim is without merit and will continue to dispute it through the appropriate channels until final resolution, up to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” Max Petroleum said, adding that the process is expected to take at least six months.
The company said it has paid $3.1 million so far towards the claim and would ask local tax authorities to offset the amount against its other tax liabilities due in the fourth quarter of 2010.
The claim resulted from a routine tax audit of the years 2005-2008 and involves a dispute over the timing of depreciation of the group’s costs prior to Kazakhstan’s adoption of a new tax code in 2009. [ID:nLDE6510IN]
The company’s shares, which have lost about 16 percent of their value since the appeal court upheld the tax claim in June, were down 2 percent at 12 pence at 0707 GMT on the London Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal)