On the stand in federal tax court, Bountiful leader Winston Blackmore confirmed that he had 21 wives, including sisters whom he married on the same day in the same ceremony, The Globe and Mail reports:
“These are pretty much the list of people who lived with me as wives,” Mr. Blackmore said on Tuesday, following a series of questions from a Department of Justice lawyer that outlined the names and home communities of the women to whom Mr. Blackmore was “sealed” in ceremonies sanctioned by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS.
Those women, and their dozens of children, at some point lived in or near Bountiful, sometimes sharing his home on arrangements worked out among the families, he said. “The mothers pretty much decided that,” he said. “They fit themselves where everybody fit best.”
Some of the women – about eight or nine, he said – left following a religious split in the community in 2002.
The women were named in a tax proceeding in which the Government of Canada is seeking to prove that Mr. Blackmore, as the patriarch of a large, polygamous family, repeatedly understated his income on tax returns, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars being owed to the government. Mr. Blackmore and his lawyers, relying on provisions of the Income Tax Act that relate to congregations, maintain that Bountiful is a congregation and Mr. Blackmore’s tax burden should be shared with the community.
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Taking a break?
Blackmore claims he is minister to approximately 400 followers in Bountiful and that they constitute a congregation, which should provide them an enormous break on taxes.
Blackmore is the main shareholder of J.R. Blackmore and Sons (JRB), a large logging and forest products company with many holdings in southeastern B.C. and Idaho.
But on his tax forms for the six years in question, he claims his and the other three directors’ incomes were spread out over the entire congregation because they live communally and share their wealth, in accordance with their beliefs.
The four directors claimed they supported their large families on incomes of between $15,000 and $45,000 in one year of the years that was audited. […]
Lawyer Lynn Burch of the federal Justice Department, cross-examined Blackmore on Tuesday on his living arrangements with his various wives and their more than 60 children.
Burch asked Blackmore to list all 20 “plural wives,” after his first wife Jane Blackmore, whom he legally married in 1975 and with whom they have seven children.
Their marriage was recognized by the provincial government, but the next 20 are not.
Blackmore was ousted as bishop of the FLDS commune in Bountiful in 2002. He says he is now a minister and a businessman.
Federal lawyers are expected to argue Blackmore is not the leader of a recognized religious group and Bountiful is not a commune.
If they succeed, Blackmore’s claim that he shared his tax burden with about 400 others in the community who follow him will deprive him of claiming expenses for a religious institution.
The case is reportedly the first challenge to Section 143 of the Tax Act, which defines what a religion is.
The case is separate from any criminal proceedings. A special prosecutor has been appointed to find out whether any criminal charges should arise from practices in Bountiful – other than polygamy – such as sexual exploitation, sexual abuse of a minor and human trafficking.