B.C. polygamous leader appeals tax court ruling, claims charter rights violated

VANCOUVER – British Columbia polygamous community leader Winston Blackmore is appealing a decision by a Federal Tax Court that he underreported his income by $1.8 million.

Documents filed in the Federal Court of Appeal say the trial judge didn’t properly interpret a section of the Income Tax Act that relates to filing taxes as a congregation.

In the original case, Blackmore argued his polygamous group should be able to use the same tax law that Hutterites use, spreading earnings among members for tax purposes.

But Judge Diane Campbell said in her ruling last August that Blackmore’s community in Bountiful, B.C., didn’t meet any of the criteria for such a tax break.

“The appellant ought to have known that ignoring the astronomical magnitude of the differences between the reported income/benefits and the amount of benefits assessed … would attract some type of tax consequences,” Campbell said in her ruling.

Blackmore claimed income from of $172,000 for the years 2000 to 2004 and 2006. He said his yearly income fluctuated between $20,000 and $40,000.

But Canada Revenue Agency added hundreds of thousands of dollars a year of income and shareholder benefits from Blackmore’s company J.R. Blackmore & Sons Ltd.

The brief notice of appeal filed said the judge didn’t properly apply a section of the Income Tax Act as “it accords with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the values to which it gives expression.”

In her earlier ruling, Campbell said Bountiful was too dispersed and fragmented to qualify as one of the specific types of communities that Parliament envisioned, such as Hutterite communities.

Blackmore, who told the court he had 21 wives and 47 children, had his income reassessed and he was also hit with a penalty of nearly $150,000 in the August ruling.

Blackmore’s lawyer David Davies wouldn’t comment on the appeal and Blackmore didn’t return a request for an interview.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.