British Columbia Court of Appeal upholds 29-month sentence for tax evasion

The 29-month prison sentence of a West Vancouver businessman convicted of real estate tax evasion has been upheld.

Michael Curt Helmut Scholz was sentenced in February 2021 after being found guilty of two counts of uttering false documents and three counts of tax offenses under the Excise Tax Act, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Scholz appealed his sentence to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which dismissed the case last month and ordered him to serve his sentence, according to the CRA.

The charges against him stemmed from a CRA investigation that found Scholz had submitted false documents to obtain benefits related to the construction of a home in West Vancouver.

“Mr. Scholz forged a bare trust agreement to conceal the true owner of the property and to support his claim for ineligible input tax credits related to the construction and design costs of the residence,” the CRA said. in his press release.

“Mr. Scholz also forged a lease agreement to lower the assessed value of the property by the CRA in an effort to reduce taxes owed.”

In addition to his 29-month sentence, Scholz was ordered to pay a total fine of $644,975.71, representing 100% of the taxes he evaded, according to the CRA.


COURT OF APPEAL DECISION

Although the revenue agency did not provide additional details about the case, more can be found in the judges’ reasons for dismissing the appeal, which are posted online.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Sunni Stromberg-Stein noted several grounds on which Scholz sought to appeal his conviction.

He argued that the sentencing judge erred in “principle” by failing to impose a suspended sentence – which would have allowed him to serve his sentence in the community – as well as by assessing his personal circumstances and assessing the impact of COVID-19 if imprisoned.

Stromberg-Stein considered and rejected these grounds, agreeing with the trial judge that a conditional sentence was not available for Scholz because a sentence of more than two years was warranted.

A sentence of that length was necessary, according to court documents, because of the “sophisticated manner” in which the crimes were committed, Scholz’s personal background as a corporate lawyer with 23 years of experience and owner of several companies with a total of 160 employees, and his “moral culpability” for the crime, as well as various legal principles and jurisprudence.

“His crimes were motivated by greed and the judge found that Mr. Scholz thought he was smart enough to get away with it,” Stromberg-Stein wrote in his sentencing summary.

The appeals judge characterized much of the Scholz case as a matter of disagreement with the trial judge’s findings and the weight given to various aggravating and mitigating factors.

Scholz argued, for example, that his forgeries were created in a “slap dash fashion” that did not suggest much planning or sophistication in the crimes, according to Stromberg-Stein’s ruling.

The appeal judge did not find this argument persuasive.

“The fact that Mr. Scholz misused his knowledge and skills to commit the offenses and got caught does not make it an error for the sentencing judge to consider his expertise as a relevant aggravating factor. “, she wrote, before finally concluding that the 29-month sentence was “completely appropriate in the circumstances”.


TAX EVASION STATISTICS

The CRA said a total of 23 people across the country have been convicted of evading a total of more than $4.4 million in federal taxes between April 1, 2021 and March 31 this year. .

Of those 23 convictions, 10 resulted in prison terms, with those convicted serving a combined total of 15.3 years, the CRA said.

“In addition to court-imposed fines and/or jail time, convicted taxpayers must pay the full amount of tax owed, plus related interest and any penalties imposed by the CRA,” the statement said. agency.

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