Should the Prince of Hutt River pay taxes?

EXCLUSIVE Shannon HamptonThe West Australian
Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province is alleged to owe $2.65 million.
Camera IconPrince Leonard of Hutt River Province is alleged to owe $2.65 million.

The long-running war of independence waged by the self-proclaimed ruler of the Hutt River Province has been challenged by the Australian Taxation Office, which claims he owes $2.65 million in unpaid tax.

In a writ filed in the WA Supreme Court, the tax office alleges Leonard George Casley, who calls himself His Royal Highness Prince Leonard, failed to pay income tax between June 2006 and November 2013 — a period spanning eight financial years.

The ATO is suing the 91-year-old monarch to recover the alleged multimillion-dollar debt, which is made up of $1.47 million in unpaid income tax and running balance account debt, $756,000 in penalties and $415,000 in interest.

But yesterday Prince Leonard said he would continue the fight against the establishment that he has carried on for 46 years.

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“The ATO has made some false claims, and all the claims are denied,” he said.

On the Principality of Hutt River website, Prince Leonard has published letters sent to him and his late wife Shirley from the ATO stating they were deemed non-residents of Australia for tax purposes in 2005. In 2012, Prince Leonard reiterated that he and the citizens of Hutt River were exempt from paying taxes.

“We’ve got assessments from the Australian Taxation Office saying they’re non-residents of the Commonwealth and there’s no tax to pay,” he told The West Australian. “The Australian tax department clearly recognises that fact. That is a diplomatic recognition.”

But the ATO has stated for years that the “the Australian Government does not legally or otherwise recognise the so-called Hutt River Province.

It also warned potential investors to avoid any involvement with Hutt River Province international business companies and “any other entities as well as any associated international dealings because they have no legal basis and could be illegal”.

Prince Leonard instigated the “secession” of the micro-nation from Australia in 1970 in protest against the low wheat production quotas being imposed by the WA government.

The property near Northampton has its own postage stamps, currency and its own visa requirements. It attracts thousands of local and international tourists annually.

The Queen wrote to Prince Leonard this year conveying her good wishes for the celebrations marking the Province’s 46th anniversary. She was replying to his letter congratulating her on her 90th birthday.

Prince Leonard’s son, Prince Richard, said yesterday the family continued to consider Hutt River a separate entity from the Commonwealth. “That has never changed in 46 years,” he said. Asked if he believed that would ever change, he replied: “Hopefully not.”

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