Daniels v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2007] SASC 114

The proceedings in Daniels v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2007] SASC 114 arose due to the respondent’s unfaltering stance that contributing monies to purposes associated with abortion indirectly through taxation, is contrary to his beliefs and faith as a Christian. The respondent contacted the ATO for the purpose of suggesting his taxation liability be reduced by the amount of the abortion levy (0.5117 per cent), which was rejected. In his previous case he relied references to international treaties and documents, religious documents and biblical references, and in this appeal contended that the Australian Taxation Office and Deputy Commissioner of Taxation are not legal entities and have no legal standing to bring the proceedings or collect taxes, that treason and misprisions of treason have been committed by enacting the Acts Amendment and Repeal (Court and Legal Practice) Act 2003 (WA), which prescribes references to the ‘Crown’ be substituted with references to the ‘State’, that the cheques sent to the ATO in 2001 to discharge his taxation liability less the 0.5117 per cent abortion levy created a contract which the ATO subsequently breached in seeking payment of the withheld monies, and that the court filing fees breaches chapter 29 of the Magna Carta, among other grounds.

The appellant appealed this decision in Daniels v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2007] SASC 431 on grounds that part of the revenue from income taxation was applied to fund Medicare payments for abortion offended section 116 of the Constitution, and that the reference in the preamble to the Constitution to “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God” constitute an invocation of the laws of God which should not be offended. The court rejected these arguments, stating that section 116 is a constitutional barrier to laws that prohibit the doing of acts in the practice of a religion, citing Griffiths CJ said in Krygger v Williams (1912) 15 CLR 366 (at 369): “To require a man to do a thing which has nothing at all to do with religion is not prohibiting him from a free exercise of religion.  It may be that a law requiring a man to do an act which his religion forbids would be objectionable on moral grounds, but it does not come within the prohibition of s 116.” and also Barton J (at 372-373), concluding that section 116 is not a dispensation from general obedience to the law, as stated by Latham CJ (at 129) in Adelaide Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses Inc v The Commonwealth (1943) 67 CLR 116. In short, the obligation to pay income tax imposed by the income tax legislation has nothing to do with the performance of religious beliefs. Further, that the reference to “the blessing of Almighty God” does not in any way enlarge the meaning and operation of section 116 of the Constitution.