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Kelowna man who claimed he was not a 'person' loses appeal of conviction for not filing taxes

Tax judgment 'unassailable'

A Kelowna man who tried to claim he was not a “person” in an effort to avoid filing taxes has, unsurprisingly, lost an appeal of his conviction.

Steven James Merrill was sentenced to 90 days in prison and fined $12,000 in August 2020 for failing to file four years worth of tax returns.

Last week, the BC Supreme Court upheld that conviction at appeal, with Justice Jasvinder Basran calling the trial judge’s reasoning “unassailable.”

Merrill, owner of Sun City Silver and Gold on Bernard Avenue, has made headlines this year for banning both face masks and vaccinated patrons from his store.

At an appeal hearing in Kelowna in March, Merrill fought his conviction on three grounds — all which were tossed by the appeal justice.

Merrill tried to argue that he was not required to accept or respond to a Notice of Requirement served to him by a CRA agent until he received a copy of the “Oath of Allegiance to her Majesty” from the CRA officer.

Merrill claimed he had no way of telling if the CRA agent was not a fraudster, something the trial judge rejected, noting that the demand letter required the returns be delivered to the CRA “and not to some fly-by-night fraudulent address.”

“The simplest of searches by Mr. Merrill would have confirmed the address was the business address for Canada Revenue Agency,” the trial judge ruled, adding that the CRA demand that Merrill file his taxes was not a “contract offer” like he claimed.

“It is no contract at all—it is a demand from an authorized government agency tasked with and having authority to make such demands,” the trial judge ruled.

Supreme Court Justice Basran, at the appeal, ruled that Merrill’s arguments were “pseudo-legal” and it was appropriate to dismiss them.

Notably, David Lindsay, the leader of Kelowna's anti-mask protests has been cited by the courts as one of Canada's most prominent "gurus" for Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments and has tried many similar, unsuccessful tactics as Merrill in court. He also served time for not filing his taxes.

Merrill would eventually file his tax returns in January 2020, which he tried to argue at appeal should impact his conviction. Justice Basran, however, ruled that point irrelevant.

“As the trial judge observed, late compliance may be a mitigating factor on sentencing but it does not 'undo' the completed offence,” said Basran.

At his original trial last year, Merrill was self-represented and tried to obstruct the court proceedings at every step. 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. More coverage from that trial can be read here.



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