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YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Entrance to Irvin's RV Park & Campground in Valemount, BCEntrance to Irvin's RV Park & Campground in Valemount, BC

For 20 years I have fought the Canada Revenue Agency over a million- dollar tax bill I didn’t owe – and won several times.  Tax Court of Canada deliberations concluded that I didn’t owe a million dollars in personal income tax (2005) and GST (2003), but I had judgments and a writ of seizure and sale on ALL my assets for that amount. I was guilty until proven innocent. I lost my house, my business, my land, my income, my savings, my future; I lost it all – approximately $4.5 million in assets. Why? Because CRA wouldn’t admit to their mistakes. They would sooner destroy me and try to bury me than admit they did wrong.

It all began, in the spring of 1992, when I developed some land I owned in Valemount, British Columbia.   I removed trees, sold the timber ... created lots for a subdivision and built an RV Park.  The plan was to build that business, gradually sell the lots to be debt free so that would support me and my wife in our retirement.  I built a state of the art RV Park and developed an 11 lot subdivision in a beautiful valley in the mountains and saw my dream come true. I hosted 10,000 visitors a season and won a prestigious Tourism BC award.  Postcards of our dream business and lifestylePostcards of our dream business and lifestyleMy dream started to fall apart in 1996, when an auditor from the tax agency showed up to look at my records for 1993-1995. The
auditor took my business receipts and other records, than misplaced those records at his office. He told me that someone put them on the pile that was to be shredded. Without my receipts to show my business expenses, numerous tax audits over several years concluded that I owed almost $900,000 in personal income tax, plus over $100,000 in GST, including interest and penalties.  Under the Excise Tax Act, CRA implemented its unlimited collection power and obtained Federal Court judgments and a Writ to Seize and Sell all my assets.  As a result of the tax bill, I had to pay tax lawyers, civil lawyers and accountants to fight.  I knew I was right.  I lost my house as it was foreclosed on, my business was also seized and sold.  To this day I do not know why CRA seized ALL my assets when my business and the 11 acres it was on appraised at $1.2 million (later at $2.2 million as the business grew).  Why did the CRA collectors seize ALL MY ASSETS??? BECAUSE THEY CAN.  In all my assets worth over $4.5 million dollars, were sold to pay a tax debt I did not owe and fight an incredible battle that I did not need to fight in the first place.  March 13, 2003 was the last night we spent at the RV Park.  We had no income, no business, no house and did not know where we would go. 

Over the past 20 years I have gone through the system to seek restitution for what CRA caused me to lose. In December 2006 with the support of my MP Richard Harris (Cariboo – Prince George) I was in direct contact with [then] Minister Carol Skelton and spokesman Terrence Scheltema. I was informed that [the Minister] “was using my case as an example to create her new taxpayers bill of rights and she wanted the outcome of my case to be an example of how Revenue Canada must be held accountable for its abuses of Canadians.” SHAME ON  POLITICIANS THAT SPEAK THESE WORDS BUT NEVER ACT.   The outcome she referred to was the advice her office had given to me to file a legal statement of claim against CRA in November 2006 “in order that CRA could respond with a settlement offer.”  Ten years, 2 Prime Ministers and 5 Ministers of National Revenue later I won a precedent setting Duty of Care for all taxpayers, but I am no further ahead in my restitution and now need to find and pay another lawyer to fight for what I lost at the hands of the government and the justice system.

In May 2007 the Financial Post wrote an article called So Much For Tax Fairness. Canada Revenue Agency was unveiling an improved Taxpayer Bill of Rights and plans for an Ombudsman – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called it the “next important step” in creating an accountable, fair tax system. Minister of National Revenue Carol Skelton stated “Canada’s tax system worked well for government but not always for taxpayers.” The Ministers’ speak the words but never put the words into action.  After so many lies, stall tactics and failed settlement attempts with the government I had nothing to lose.  I needed to push my civil claim ahead.  The Department of Justice had already filed a motion to dismiss the case, calling it vexatious and an abuse of process....  This is the strategy government lawyers use.  Constant and endless motions to dismiss your claim, to whittle it down in the hearing process one judge at a time, to show you have no right to be challenging them in court.  The strategy is used in every case for every department of the government - Tax, Indian Affairs, Environment, Agriculture........whatever!!!  They hope you run out of money to pay lawyers and/or cover court costs, or simply hope you give up or die trying.  This is their strategy because the government has unlimited resources to fight us with.  There is no such thing as them running out of money and it doesn't matter to them because that is the system we have.

With nothing to lose and so many lies and stalls from government about a "settlement offer", I decided to GO PUBLIC with my story.  In 2009, we contacted Kathy Tomlinson at CBC and I spilled my guts.  This started the national news story which was heard on Go Public, The National and CBC radio The Current.  It was heard by thousands of Canadians including tax consultants, lawyers and two important citizens groups.  The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) contacted me about the violations of my civil and charter rights and took on my case in 2010.  Over the next four years we worked with three separate lawyers who would work on contingency and faced 10 motions by the CRA and Department of Justice to have my case thrown out, dismissed, altered, limited, challenged in any way they could think of.  Along the way there were media stories and interviews - every time I succeeded in a hearing and beat CRA in its attempt to squash my lawsuit it made the news.  CRA did not want to go to trial. 

Finally in Fall 2013 I HAD MY DAY IN COURT.  The result of course was the landmark decision of the Duty of Care released on April 30, 2014.  The judge ruled CRA and its auditors and collectors owed me a duty of care and they were negligent in their treatment of a taxpayer.  She did not award damages because she did have evidence before her to prove CRA actions started a snowball chain reaction that caused my losses.  I had the evidence and had expert witnesses available at the time of trial but my lawyer failed to present either of these even as I instructed him to do so.  I was at the mercy of my lawyer and he was at the mercy of the power (and influence I think) of the team of lawyers from the Department of Justice and the Canada Revenue Agency.  Again, I was denied my restitution and wronged by this system of justice. 

I appealed the decision to see if I could make a case for damages.  Not surprisingly, Canada Revenue Agency cross-appealed to come after me for costs AND to reverse the Duty of Care decision.  But I was on my own again.  The CCF was finished with my case. 

So, I spilled my guts again and appealed to fellow taxpayers.  We launched a crowdfunding campaign and raised $30,000 in seven weeks!!!.  It was incredible to hear even more stories of taxpayers being bullied and destroyed by CRA and they joined my fight.  The CCF wrote and awesome op-ed about the taxpayer's hero and that really got things going.  Next, a former Minister of National Revenue blogged about my case and that sped up the fundraising even more.  You need a lawyer to appear before three judges in the BC Court of Appeal.  I needed the transcript from the trial too because it is an intimate insight into the judge's decision and an invaluable preparation tool for court.  Over the years we racked up close to $30,000 just in transcript costs.

This is where the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) stepped up to protect the duty of care for all Canadian taxpayers.  CTF had followed my case for years and after this incredible victory they did not want to risk losing the duty of care.  We found a top notch team of two lawyers to defend the duty of care and ensure that CRA would not come after me for hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs.  Unfortunately I was not allowed to introduce my evidence for damages but fortunately, after 18 months in BC Court of Appeal, the lawyers protected the duty of care.  Of course CRA had to stick it to me over 10 bucks but that is just the kind of bitter and spiteful agency it is.

And so here I am. Grateful for friends and family.  Grateful for so many supporters - financial and otherwise - who stood beside me along the way.  Grateful for brave Canadians who stand up for our rights in this country.  And I am more than ever determined to tell our government ENOUGH! 

The bullying and corruption and abuse of hardworking Canadian taxpayers has to stop now.  The powers of CRA must be stopped and the Excise Tax Act must be amended to limit the absolute unrestricted and unregulated collection powers of CRA!

 

one of our caravan tours at the RV Parkone of our caravan tours at the RV Park

CRA has unlimited resources to fight ordinary hardworking Canadians – back in 2009 I said its time to turn the tables. My goal was to make 4.5 million friends representing the $4.5 million that was taken from me by the actions of the CRA.  Since then I have gathered stories from taxpayers all over the country to give them a forum to tell their story and let them know they are not alone. Now more than ever we will be able to pool this information which will give us strength and knowledge. No one wants an audit but everyone can learn avenues that are available to them to protect themselves. Every friend will tell two friends to tell two friends and so on. The internet is a forum where there is strength in numbers and I admire those who have come forward to share their stories so that people know they are not alone.