A Kelowna man who tried to claim he is not a “person” under Canada’s Income Tax Act has been convicted of failing to file four years' worth of tax returns.
During a two-day trial earlier this summer, a self-represented Steven James Merrill tried to fight the charges with a variety of arguments a judge rejected as “twisted” and “straw man logic” that “defies any rational response.”
Merrill was first served by a CRA agent with a Notice of Requirement on Jan. 30, 2019, ordering him to file his tax returns for 2014-2017 by May 1, 2019.
From the outset, Merrill refused to accept the documents, forcing the CRA agent to leave them at Merrill’s feet. He also claimed the documents were invalid because they were served to Steven James Merrill, not “Steve Merrill,” the name the CRA had used while writing to him in the past.
“Furthermore, I reject the twisted definition of 'individual' used by Mr. Merrill, where he advances that only a corporation and not an individual person has an obligation under the Income Tax Act to respond to Notices of Requirement,” Judge Robin Smith ruled.
"There is no air of reality to these arguments. Mr. Merrill, in his personal capacity, was required to respond to the Notices of Requirement.”
Merrill formerly owned Sun City Silver and Gold Exchange on Bernard Ave. in Kelowna.
The decision also says Merrill demanded a certified copy of the CRA agent's “Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty,” and would later maintain that the CRA’s written notice was a contract offer.
“It is no contract at all—it is a demand from an authorized government agency tasked with and having authority to make such demands,” Judge Smith ruled.
When Merrill failed to meet the CRA’s deadline and court proceedings were started against him, he started to challenge the court itself, claiming his summons was “defective” because it did not feature an official seal, logo or insignia. He demanded the presiding judge confirm his oath of allegiance to the Queen.
“While I had no legal obligation to do so given the presumption of regularity when Mr. Merrill appeared in open court before me, I chose to verbally confirm to Mr. Merrill that I have in fact made such an oath and I would deal with his matter fairly,” Judge Smith said.
Merrill would refuse to enter a plea to the charges and tried to argue the B.C. Provincial Court had no jurisdiction over the case.
He alleged CRA agents conspired against him unfairly, but Judge Smith ruled the “credible evidence simply does not reflect any such conspiracy and is not worthy of any further analysis, given there is no air of reality to the claim.”
During the trial, Merrill was disruptive. One such moment, when Merrill was demanding the court prove its jurisdiction prior to the trial starting, is transcribed in the court documents.
Judge Smith: If you leave, the sheriffs are just going to arrest you sir.
Mr. Merrill: For what?
Judge Smith: If you want to find out, just try leaving and see what happens. Don’t leave. (Mr. Merrill continued walking out).
Judge Smith: Don’t leave.
Mr. Merrill: I am not on the ship.
Judge Smith: Don’t walk out. (Mr. Merrill continued walking totally outside the door) Sheriffs, will you please put him into custody. That is what he chooses and I am not going to put up with this nonsense.
Sheriffs: (bring Mr. Merrill back into the courtroom)
Mr. Merrill: What have I done?
Judge Smith: You are not going to stop this trial from happening.
Mr. Merrill: Then I will sit here.
Judge Smith: Sit….
Mr. Merrill: Why am I being detained?
Judge Smith: You are having a trial and you just---
Mr. Merrill: You are having a trial.
Judge Smith: Sir, you may not like the way this is proceeding—I am trying to be as calm as I can, but you are very disruptive and in the end, I am the one in control here and not you…you need to understand that you are not stopping this process from happening.
Mr. Merrill: I wasn’t planning to stop it from happening.
Judge Smith: When you walked out, that stopped it.
Mr. Merrill: How?
Judge Smith: You are the accused.
Mr. Merrill: No I am not, I am agent for the accused.
Judge Smith: Because of your denial in that regard and your disruptive behaviour, that is exactly why you now find yourself in custody.
Judge Smith would go onto find Merrill guilty on all four counts
“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, 2017,” he ruled.
The judgement did not include sentencing. The charges Merrill was convicted of carry a minimum penalty of $1,000 each. In 2013, Merrill was fined $4,000 for failing to file his 2006 to 2009 personal tax returns.