A couple of years ago, a Tasmanian family known for making honey, owning a bed and breakfast, and living in a home on the island state’s Meander Valley said they didn’t have to pay taxes on any of their properties because the land belonged to God, not the government.
The Beerepoot family made their last rates payment for their three properties in July 2010.
Meander Valley Mayor Craig Perkins told the ABC that, in news that will come as a disappointment to homeowners across the country, there was no religious exemption from paying council rates.
“Under law, people who are owning properties, the title owners are required to pay rates, under legislation, and people’s Christian religious beliefs make no difference,” he said.
“If we exempted them on this occasion, everybody would start saying they have a religious belief and don’t have to pay rates.”
The Mayor was right. The Beerepoots had no business avoiding taxes just because a voice in their heads told them their debts were forgiven. It’s not like God’s going to be there to put out fires, collect the garbage, fill the potholes, or provide police protection if needed.
As one Facebook commenter noted, by their logic, anyone could walk into their store and take the honey without paying since it was made by bees.
Today, after years of legal wrangling, the Beerepoots were ordered to pay more than $2 million to the Australian Taxation Office.
The judge made clear that nothing in the Bible justified their negligence.
In his judgment, Associate Justice Stephen Holt said he took issue with the absence of a specific reference in the Bible that supports their argument.
“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?” Justice Holt asked.
“I believe the submissions to be honestly and genuinely held beliefs rather than an attempt to avoid tax liabilities.
“But in my view, the Bible effectively said that civil matters and the law of God operate in two different spheres.”
He’s right: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Maybe if the family actual read their holy book instead of just using it as a shield for their own irresponsibility, they would realize it.
It’s a strange end to a ridiculous story, but the Beerepoots brought this upon themselves. They shouldn’t be upset. By their logic, God just won the case since God wins everything! So they have nothing to be upset about. His Will has been done.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Tom for the link. Large portions of this article were published earlier)