31 Oct 2010

Tax court documents show polygamist who wants gov't to fund defence was manipulating tax system

The Globe & Mail - Canada June 10, 2009

Untangling Blackmore's unconventional family

Documents provide an early glimpse into relationships in the polygamous community of Bountiful

by Robert Matas

VANCOUVER — Winston Blackmore's common-law wife Zelpha Chatwin had a daughter named Doris on Sept. 13, 1995. About 10 weeks later, his common-law wife Marsha Chatwin had a daughter named Darla. Mr. Blackmore also had children with the women six months apart in 1997 and 6½ months apart in 2001.

Over the years, Zelpha Chatwin had five children with Mr. Blackmore; Marsha Chatwin, her sister, also had five.

The unconventional family relationships were set out as "assumptions" in a case in the Tax Court of Canada that is slowly moving through the judicial system, with deadlines being set this month for exchanging documents and the start of pretrial interviews with witnesses.

The documents provide an early glimpse into relationships in the polygamous community of Bountiful that will likely be central in the historic criminal case against Mr. Blackmore.

Mr. Blackmore was charged in January with practising a form of polygamy with 19 women between May 1, 2005, and Dec. 8, 2006, in contravention of the Criminal Code. He is the former leader of a religious community in southeastern B.C. that encourages polygamy as an article of faith, and he has been reported to have more than 100 children. His trial will be the first time a Canadian has been charged with polygamy since the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects freedom of religion.

In tax court, Mr. Blackmore is appealing a reassessment by the federal government. The tax department alleges that Mr. Blackmore, as a shareholder and employee of J.R. Blackmore & Sons Ltd., earned about $1.84-million in taxable benefits over five years earlier this decade. He reported taxable income of $116,445 for that period, the documents show.

The federal government is also going after the company, J.R. Blackmore & Sons Ltd., a construction, logging and farming business with Mr. Blackmore as the chief executive officer and top manager. The government alleges J.R. Blackmore & Sons Ltd. claimed numerous expenses that were not incurred for business-related purposes.

The government also reassessed the firm's GST obligations. The government alleges the company understated GST that was to be collected and overstated its tax credits. The company reported that $3.3-million was collected and claimed tax credits of $1.8-million from Jan. 1, 2001, to May 31, 2005.

The relationships between Mr. Blackmore and the women are part of another case in tax court. The federal government has gone after Zelpha Chatwin and Marsha Chatwin for repayment of Canada child tax benefits and B.C. family bonus payments. The two women are among 19 who were allegedly in a polygamous relationship with Mr. Blackmore. U.S. researcher Jay Beswick has said that the two women are sisters with U.S. citizenship who were married to Mr. Blackmore on the same day.

The government asked Zelpha Chatwin to repay about $24,000 that was allegedly paid out over three years earlier this decade. She received $6,611.66 from July of 2001 to June of 2002 on the basis that she was married or living common law, had eligible children and family income of $31,608. But after reassessing Mr. Blackmore's finances, the family income included rose to $309,003, which in effect disqualified her from receiving the child tax benefits and family bonus payments, the government stated.

She claimed the family income was $40,653 in the next year. But the government calculated the family income at $568,404, which once again disqualified her from receiving benefits.

Similarly, the government sought repayment from Marsha Chatwin based on a recalculation of Mr. Blackmore's income. However, the arrangements with her were further complicated by a change in family relations in September, 2006. Marsha Chatwin transferred her children into the care of another person and no longer had any dependents. It was not clear from the court documents what happened to the children.

The tax court has decided to deal with Mr. Blackmore's appeal of the reassessment of his taxes first and then look at the baby bonus payments.

Meanwhile, on the criminal charge of polygamy, Mr. Blackmore has asked B.C. Supreme Court to dismiss the charge against him. If the case proceeds, he said, the government should pay his legal bills. The court is to hear that application starting June 29.

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