Crown counsel is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to sentence a proponent of a tax evasion scheme to four and a half years in jail.
And while Debbie Arlene Anderson had as many as 100 students, and was described as “significant and essential” to the Chilliwack-based Paradigm Education Group, she was an acolyte of the group’s founder Russell Porisky who received just a four-year sentence.
Crown also asked Justice Neill Brown on Jan. 22 to hand Anderson a fine of just over $35,000. Of that, $22,689.90 is 100 per cent of the income tax she avoided over the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. The further $12,736.82 is for non-remitted GST.
Anderson’s sentencing hearing continued on Jan. 22, but the court heard that she was not ready to respond that day to Crown submissions. Justice Brown agreed to put her over to another day to respond.
It was on Nov. 3, 2017 that Brown convicted Anderson of all four charges she faced: tax evasion and making false statements under the Income Tax Act (ITA), failure to make GST payments under the Excise Tax Act (ETA), and counselling others to commit fraud under the criminal code.
Crown asked for a one-year sentence and a fine for the making false statements under the income tax act; one year to run concurrent for failure to make GST payments; and 3.5 years to run consecutive for the more serious counselling others to commit fraud under the criminal code.
Anderson was a senior “educator” in Paradigm Education Group, which taught paying students that income tax is a violation of human rights, and is optional for individuals who declare themselves “natural persons.”
In finding her guilty in November, Brown said Anderson’s argument to defend her teachings “has no basis in law, is meritless, and must be dismissed.”
The “natural person” theory posits that income tax only applies to the artificial or legal person created in law. If one declares oneself to be a natural person, and enters into specially designed contracts to be paid for services, so goes the argument, income tax can be ignored.
The problem routinely outlined by the courts is that the teachings are, simply, wrong.
During the court proceedings last year and again at the sentencing hearing Jan. 22, Anderson has made a number of unusual statements and confusing proclamations. Asked if she was going to again continue without a lawyer, Anderson responded: “No, I’m not,” she said. “I’m not here on my voluntary consent either.”
Twice in the first five minutes of the hearing, Anderson stood to say something similar about not being present on her own consent. Justice Brown responded that in 10 years sitting on the bench he had never encountered an accused who so often disobeyed order in the court by interrupting and talking over him.
“This is a courtroom,” he told her. “You have to respect the decorum.”
She also had something to say about her being referred to by Crown and the judge as “Ms. Anderson.”
“I do not consent to being referred to as Ms. Anderson. That is not my name.”
Crown told the court that Anderson was essential to the Paradigm teachings. During the trial, the court saw a video where she taught not just paying students but other educators how to maximize their businesses.
“She made her living promoting the scheme.”
Anderson’s mentor Porisky was sentenced on July 29, 2016 to four years in jail and fined $260,000. His partner Elaine Gould was sentenced to one day in jail and was fined $38,242. The duo’s fraudulent counselling to more than 800 students resulted in an estimated $11 million in income tax evasion.
Anderson had as many as 100 students, the court heard, who typically paid seven per cent of money earned as a fee for the educational materials that outlined how to arrange financial affairs so as to not pay taxes. She, herself, earned at least $165,000 over 2005, 2006 and 2007, and declared zero income for the first two years and did not file an income tax return for 2007.
Another Porisky follower, Michael Spencer Millar, who also represented himself, was sentenced Feb. 28 to two-and-a-half years in jail for following the debunked theory.
Anderson’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to continue March 5.