Jonathan Duhamel Battles Canadian Tax Agency Over 2010 WSOP Main Event Winnings6 months ago
2010 World Series of Poker Main Event winner Jonathan Duhamel is in a legal battle with Canadian tax authorities who allege that Duhamel owes over CA $1.5 million in back taxes for the years 2010-12, a period that includes Duhamel’s Main Event win.
The issue, according to a Montreal-based news report, is whether Duhamel’s winnings came from a “game of chance,” which isn’t taxable under Canadian law, or whether they are derived from a form of professional employment, in which case taxes are assessed. The Tax Court of Canada is scheduled to hear the matter beginning in March of 2021. This will be the first tax case involving a high-profile Canadian poker pro since the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced late in 2019 that they would be investigating known high-stakes Canadian pros for potential tax avoidance. The agency believes that professional players are indeed playing the game as a business, and are thus not eligible for the “games of chance” exception.
The Duhamel case will represent an interesting contrast between the tax laws in Canada, where Duhamel lives, and the United States, where the 2010 Main Event -- and the bulk of Duhamel’s career live winnings -- occurred. The US taxes all poker income, whether garnered by chance or not, but at a lower overall rate for declared “professional” players. Duhamel reportedly paid US taxes on his 2010 Main Event win, under the “games of chance” laws as declared in the US, which he might have thought could shield him from dual taxation. Instead, the Canadian tax issue might open the door into a deeper look at over a decade of Duhamel’s professional results.
Though the potential tax hit facing Duhamel is severe, there are other factors involved, both magnifying and limiting. Duhamel swapped nearly half of his overall action in the years 2010-12, which somewhat limits his exposure when compared against his published tournament results. However, should he lose in his battle against Canada’s tax feds, he then would likely face a similar investigation from Quebec’s provincial tax regime, possibly resulting in another million dollars or more in back taxes being declared due.
It’s just the latest in a string of unusual controversies involving Duhamel, who was infamously robbed of his WSOP bracelet, cash, and other valuables in a home-invasion style robbery in late 2012. Duhamel’s then-girlfriend, Bianca Rojas-Latraverse, was later sentenced to 42 months in prison for orchestrating the robbery, in which Duhamel was beaten. Upon her release, Rojas-Latraverse, joined another woman in making accusations against Duhamel which have never been proven, though in the interim Duhamel had suddenly been dropped from the high-profile Team PokerStars Pro, which had given him a million-dollar sponsorship deal following his 2010 win.
According to La Presse, the CRA will push several major points to prove that Duhamel played poker as a business, rather than just being a fortunate gambler. Among those are that Duhamel has played full-time since 2008, considers himself a poker pro, has swapped millions of dollars of action with other pros, and even retained an agent to represent his interests late in 2010.
On the flip side, Duhamel plans to argue that poker remains a game of chance, despite its skill elements, that he’s never received formal training, and that he doesn’t employ a “system” while playing the game.
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