A Tasmanian family has been ordered to pay more than $2 million to the Australian Taxation Office after failing to pay income tax on the grounds it “goes against God’s will”.
Christian missionaries Fanny Alida Beerepoot and Rembertus Cornelis Beerepoot faced the Supreme Court of Tasmania on Wednesday after they both failed to pay an estimated $930,000 in income tax, and other charges in 2017.
Solicitor Stephen Linden told the court the pair had been served two notices of their debt and had failed to lodge their tax returns.
In their submissions, Mr Beerepoot said Australian taxation law was contrary to the law of “Almighty God”.
“We believe that the constitution affirms the fact that the Commonwealth resides within the jurisdiction of the law of the Almighty God and the law of the Almighty God is the supreme law of this land,” he told the court.
Family had property seized for not paying rates
Representing themselves, the pair told the court they had paid income tax before 2011, but that a deepened spiritual relationship meant they later realised paying tax was “against God’s will”.
Mr Beerepoot told the court the pair sent letters to the Queen and prime minister last month calling into question the jurisdiction of taxation and the validity of the legislation.
He argued that by being made to pay taxes, their dependence on God was being taken away from them, which was causing Australia to be cursed.
As we move outside of God’s jurisdiction, this country has received curses which we’re already seeing in the form of droughts and infertility,’’ he said.
“Transferring our allegiance from God to the Commonwealth would mean rebelling against God and therefore breaking the first commandment.
“As we reject God, the curses upon us become greater. But if we return to God’s teachings there will be healing,” said Ms Beerepoot, who referred to Mr Beerepoot as her “brother”.
“We rely on the blessings we receive from God, which we give to him and not to an outside entity such as the tax office.”
In 2017, the family had their 2.44-hectare property at Mole Creek in northern Tasmania seized and later sold for $120,000 by the Meander Valley Council after they refused to pay about $3000 worth of rates on the property over seven years.
“We don’t own anything because we are his [God’s],” Ms Beerepoot told the court.
‘Thou shalt not pay tax’ not in the Bible: Judge
In his judgement, Associate Justice Stephen Holt said he took issue with the absence of a specific reference in the Bible that supports their argument.
If you can’t find me a passage in scripture or gospel that says ‘thou shall not pay tax’ then can you see I have difficulty finding a starting point?’’ Justice Holt asked.
“I believe the submissions to be honestly and genuinely held beliefs rather than an attempt to avoid tax liabilities.
“But in my view, the Bible effectively said that civil matters and the law of God operate in two different spheres.”
Justice Holt ordered Mr and Ms Beerepoot pay an estimated $1.159 million and $1.166 million respectively, covering income tax debt, administrative costs, interest charges and running balance account deficit debts.