A Kelowna man who claimed he doesn’t meet the definition of a “person” under the federal Income Tax Act has been convicted of failing to file tax returns over four consecutive years.
Self-represented Steven James Merrill fought the charges in Kelowna courts during a two-day trial earlier this summer. According to court documents, that trial saw Judge Robin Smith reject various “twisted” claims made by Merrill.
A Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officer served Merrill a notice of requirement on January 30, 2019, demanding he file his 2014 through 2017 tax returns by May 1, 2019.
Merrill believed that if he did not accept the documents, then he was not served. This was not the case and the CRA agent left the documents at Merrill’s feet. Still, Merrill claimed the documents were invalid, saying they were served upon “Steven James Merrill” and not “Steve Merrill” as the CRA had addressed him in past correspondence.
“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,” said Judge Smith.
“There is no air of reality to these arguments. Mr. Merrill, in his personal capacity, was required to respond to the notices of requirement.”
But Merrill claimed he had no legal obligation to respond to the notices until the CRA officer provided him a copy of their “Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty,” in order to validate their position as a government official — a position which was also rejected by the judge. He later maintained that the 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,” Smith ruled.
Court proceedings against Merrill began after he failed to meet the CRA’s deadline.
But, he again took issue when his court summons did not include a seal, a flag, a coat of arms, or any official insignia or logo that would confirm its origin. As such, he called the summons “defective.” The judge deemed the order valid in his ruling.
Merrill believed the court did not have jurisdiction to hear this matter unless the presiding judge confirmed his oath of allegiance to Her Majesty.
“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.
After this, Merrill still refused to enter a plea, arguing the B.C. Provincial Court did not have jurisdiction over the matter — which it does. He also accused the CRA of conspiring against him.
“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,” Judge Smith said.
Smith called Merrill’s actions throughout the court process “disruptive,” citing an incident during the trial in which Merrill attempted to walk out of the courtroom.
As Merrill approached the exit door, the following conversation occurred between him and the judge:
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.
Smith found Merrill guilty of all four charges he faced.
“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.”
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