Judge says Kelowna business owner's reason for not filing taxes are 'total nonsense,' finds him guilty - InfoNews

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Judge says Kelowna business owner's reason for not filing taxes are 'total nonsense,' finds him guilty

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August 15, 2020 - 8:00 AM

A Kelowna business owner has been found guilty for failing to file years of income tax returns after he used arguments in court the judge described as "total nonsense."

Steven James Merrill had argued he was not a "person" within the definition of the Income Tax Act and that he had been wrongly charged.

Provincial Court Judge Robin Smith didn't buy the argument saying such "straw man logic" defied any rational response.

According to the decision published, Aug. 7, Merrill had been served notice for not filing tax returns from 2014 to 2017. Merrill had not complied with a final May 1, 2019 deadline and ended up in court charged with four counts of failing to comply with Notices of Requirement to file Income Tax Returns

In the judge's decision, which in part reads more like a parent shouting at an unruly child than a court hearing, Merrill argued the Canada Revenue Agency had unfairly conspired against him. In the decision, the judge does not address the conspiracy, saying it was "not worthy of any further analysis."

Merrill argued the Notices of Requirement to file his T1 served on him were invalid as he had not accepted them and the tax officer had put them at his feet. He also argued the summons had no authority over him as it was served under the name "Steven James Merrill" and not "Steve Merrill" which the Canada Revenue Agency had used to address him in a letter years early.

Judge Smith described that as "total nonsense."

Merrill also erroneously argued only a corporation had to respond to notices from the CRA, that the paperwork was invalid as it did not include a seal, a flag, a coat of arms or any official insignia. He made further arguments the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter unless the judge confirmed his oath of allegiance to Her Majesty.

"There is no air of reality to these arguments," Judge Smith said.

The court decision says Merrill, who owns Sun City Silver and Gold Exchange in Kelowna, represented himself and refused to enter a plea at the beginning of the trial stating the court had no authority over him.

"The court has a positive duty to be fair and courteous to litigants. This task becomes more complicated when an accused chooses to be disruptive throughout much of the court process," reads the decision. "Mr. Merrill conducted himself in a manner very obstructive to completing the trial. He was lecturing the court on how the Crown had no legal reason to proceed given he had eventually filed his tax returns. He demanded that the Crown prove court jurisdiction before having the trial proceed."

At one point Merrill got into a spat with the judge and began to pack up his things and leave the courtroom. The decision gives a rundown of the conversation.

"If you leave, the sheriffs are just going to arrest you," the judge said.

"For what?" replied Merrill

"If you want to find out, just try leaving and see what happens," the judge answered.

The conversation continued until the judge tells Merrill, "because of your denial in that regard and your disruptive behaviour, that is exactly why you now find yourself in custody."

The court documents say Merrill did eventually file the tax returns but after the deadline given. There is no mention of any finances in the document.

"Mr. Merrill had appeared before me a few times prior on this matter, claiming to just be the agent for the accused. I was not allowing any such agency appearance by him. He had been told that if he was not the accused person served with the Summons, then he was free to go but then there would be a warrant for the arrest of the Mr. Merrill who was served with the summons. On those occasions, Mr. Merrill was not denying he was the person served with the summons, but he simply believed the summons was either invalid or served on the wrong person. However, it is with this background, that the court told him on July 13, 2020 that if he left the courtroom, he would be arrested," the decision says. "For cross-examination, the court allowed Mr. Merrill out of custody, after Mr. Merrill promised to conduct himself in a way that did not disrupt the trial."

Ultimately, following confusing arguments which are all dismissed, Judge Smith summarized the case.

"In the simplest of terms, Mr. Merrill refused to timely file his personal tax returns when they were due for the tax years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017," the judge said. "I am not left with any reasonable doubt that Mr. Merrill is guilty as charged and I find him guilty on all counts."

The decision does not give any sentence following the guilty verdict.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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