A Christian family that refuses to pay rates and taxes because it is “against God’s will” has been ordered to pay $2.3m by the Tasmanian supreme court.
Fanny Alida Beerepoot and Rembertus Cornelis Beerepoot, who previous owned the Melita honey farm in northern Tasmania, have refused to pay income tax since 2011.
The pair, who represented themselves, told the court they didn’t need to pay a $930,000 bill because everything they owned belonged to God, and Australian tax law fell under the jurisdiction of the Bible, the ABC reported.
“We don’t own anything because we are his [God’s]”, Fanny Beerepoot told the court. Rembertus Beerepoot said “the law of the almighty God” was “the supreme law of this land”.
On Wednesday, associate justice Stephen Holt disagreed.
He told the pair that there was no passage in the Bible that said “thou shalt not pay tax”.
“I believe the submissions to be honestly and genuinely held beliefs rather than an attempt to avoid tax liabilities,” he said. “But in my view, the Bible effectively said that civil matters and the law of God operate in two different spheres.”
In court, the Beerepoots said they had sent letters to the prime minister and to the Queen, arguing that Australian tax law was invalid, and claimed the country was cursed by “drought and infertility” because it was turning away from God.
“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,” Fanny Alida Beerepoot said.
In 2017, the Berepoots’ honey farm was forcibly seized by the local Meander Valley council after they refused to pay council rates over seven years.
At the time, Fanny Alida Beerepoot said: “This is a conversation between us and our heavenly father and the council.”
On Wednesday, Holt ordered Rembertus Beerepoot to pay $1.16m and Fanny Beerepoot to pay $1.166m, which included their income tax debt, interest and other administrative costs.