(CN) – The U.S. Tax Court has rejected gay activist and millionaire Charles Merrill’s claim that he doesn’t have to pay his taxes unless he can file a married joint return with his partner of 18 years.
Merrill, an artist and cousin of Merrill Lynch founder Charles E. Merrill, said he refused to file his 2004 and 2005 tax returns as an act of civil disobedience promoting same-sex marriage equality. He demanded that the IRS grant him “married filing jointly” status, rather than single status, based on his committed same-sex relationship.
Before his relationship with Kevin Boyle, Merrill was married to Johnson & Johnson heiress Evangeline Johnson Merrill for 23 years. He and Boyle began dating shortly after Evangeline’s death, according to the ruling.
He and Boyle participated in a commitment ceremony in North Carolina in 2004, but the state does not recognize gay marriages. The couple was legally married in 2008, after moving to California.
The tax court sidestepped Merrill’s constitutional claims and decided the case on procedural grounds: Merrill failed to file a joint return with Boyle for 2004 and 2005. Thus, he is not eligible for married-filing-jointly status for those years, the court concluded.
He reportedly owes the IRS more than $835,000.