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Opinion: This Burnaby dentist got nailed for his ridiculous ‘freeman of the land’ stance

Dentist handed conditional sentence
Peter Balogh
Peter Balogh, a West Vancouver man with a dental practice in Burnaby, has been sentenced for tax evasion.

They say nothing is certain in life except death and taxes.

One Burnaby dentist tried to cheat the latter and got nailed in the process.

Good.

In a July 6 B.C. Provincial Court decision, Burnaby dentist Peter Balogh was ordered to pay back $578,885 to the Canada Revenue Agency. That represents the full amount the dentist is said to have cheated the CRA out of since 2005, plus interest and penalties, according to a press release from the tax agency.

Balogh was originally found guilty on six counts on Aug. 9, 2016 — one count for making false statements and five counts for not reporting taxable income.

An investigation carried out by the CRA found that in 2005, Balogh stopped paying himself a salary. Instead, he invoiced his dental practice in Burnaby as a contractor and then wrote cheques to himself.

The dentist is said to adhere to the “freeman on the land” or “natural person” argument. 

“The crux of the argument is that individuals are governed by free will only, and unless they enter into a binding contract with the state — which they have not done — then they cannot be governed by the state’s authority over them,” wrote Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee in April after a Kitsilano restaurant sought to evade public health orders.  

The arguments, says Lee, have been raised to fight everything from taxes or traffic tickets; in the end, courts have unilaterally rejected the plausibility of these arguments.

And thank goodness.

Look, we all hate to pay taxes. Well, most of us. I appreciate the need to pay taxes because they pay for vital services, such as universal health care, road maintenance and, well, the list goes on and on.

It’s ridiculous and offensive to see people who can easily afford to pay taxes, like dentists, try and cheat the system because they don’t think the laws apply to them. I bet this dentist benefits from all sorts of services that are paid for by our taxes. And yet, he’s trying to avoid them.

In Balogh’s case, it was all about the taxes. Despite warnings from his accountant that the “natural person” argument would not hold water, Balogh continued to underreport his income through 2005 and 2006. Between 2007 and 2009, he didn’t file any tax returns. 

All told, the dentist failed to report $2.177 million in taxable income. What makes things even worse, in my mind, is that he was even warned by his own accountant not to do this and he did it anyways. That's some arrogance.

The CRA says that there have been 26 convictions of tax protesters between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2021. That’s led to $2.75 million in fines and 53 years of jail time, says the tax agency. 

  • With additional reporting by Stefan Labbe, Glacier Media