A pair of Australian missionaries who refused to pay their taxes have been slapped with a $2.3 million fine.
Fanny Alida Beerepoot and her brother Rembertus Cornelis Beerepoot were hauled before the Supreme Court of Tasmania Wednesday after failing to pay around $930,000 in income tax and related charges in 2017, despite being issued with two notices.
In their defense submissions, the Beerepoots said that paying taxes was contrary to the law as established by “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,” Rembertus told the court, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The defendants, who had no formal legal representation, said that they paid taxes on income up until 2011, when they were overcome with a condition that it was “against God’s will.”
The defendant also argued that if he pays taxes to the government, it would undermine his “dependence on God,” — something he believes will invite a spiritual curse upon the land.
“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,” Ms Beerepoot added. “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.”
Responding to the fact that vast swathes of their property had been seized as a result of their financial misconduct, the siblings insisted that they “don’t own anything because we are his [God’s].”
In a bid to debunk the pair’s argument, the judge presiding over the case insisted that the Bible does not excuse Christians from paying their tax.
“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?” Associate Justice Holt asked.
“In my view,” he said, “the Bible effectively said that civil matters and the law of God operate in two different spheres.”
What does the Bible say about paying taxes?
Most would agree that the Bible issues clear instruction to Christians — you must pay your taxes without hesitation.
One of the most commonly-cited scriptures on this issue is Matthew 22;17, where Jesus himself questions the Pharisaical attitude towards paying dues charged by governing authorities.
“Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” the Pharisees quizzed the son of God, looking for a way to shirk their financial obligations
“18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”2
In his famous letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul also espoused clear support for the concept of paying taxes:
“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” — Roman’s 13: 5-7
As a result of their tax fraud, Justice Holt ordered the Beerepoots to pay some $1.159 million and $1.166 million respectively, which incorporated the money due for income tax debt, administrative costs, interest charges and other related tariffs.