Jonathan Duhamel On The Hook For $1.8M in Unpaid Taxes

2010 WSOP Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel faces a $1.8 million bill for unpaid taxes

Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes and it’s the latter that has Jonathan Duhamel rattled. The 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event champion is embroiled in a tax dispute with Canadian authorities.

Duhamel was a relative unknown until his monster-sized WSOP Main Event victory. Only four live tournament cashes appeared on his Hendon Mob page from 2006-2009. The Canadian decided to play at the 2010 WSOP and it turned out to be life-changing.

He cashed in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event for $5,724. A 15th place finish in a $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em event, worth $37,276, followed. Then came the big one. Duhamel topped a field of 7,319-entrants in the $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event. His reward? A cool $8,944,310.

This massive prize gave Duhamel a bankroll sufficient enough to compete on the world stage. A seven-figure pot plus a sponsorship package from PokerStars saw Duhamel become a regular feature in the biggest live tournaments around the globe.

Duhamel has 15 scores weighing in at six-figures or more. He won his second WSOP bracelet in 2015. First-place in the $111,111 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller saw Duhamel rake in $3,989,985. Bracelet number three came three months later in Berlin. Duhamel won the €25,600 High Roller at the WSOP Europe festival for €554,395 ($628,915).

The Canadian quickly gained a reputation for being an extremely talented poker player. He’s not cashed in a live event since November 2018 but still has $18,012,109 in winnings.

CRA Claims Duhamel Had a Professional Poker Player Business

The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) and Duhamel disagree on whether taxes are owed on Duhamel’s huge winnings. The CRA is claiming CAD$1,219,114 ($913,765) in federal taxes from 20010-12. Revenu Quebec may put its in own similar-sized claim if the CRA is successful. This puts him on a $1.8 million hook.

Canadians do not pay tax on winnings stemming from games of chance. Poker is considered a game of chance in Canada. All Canadian tax residents carrying out business is required to pay taxes, regardless of their business. The CRA argue Duhamel’s business is that of a professional poker player.

CRA considers Duhamel a professional poker player between 2010-12. It says his long-term success depended on his talent and skill, not luck. A long list of arguments is there for all to see at the Tax Court of Canada. They include:

  • Behaving like a serious businessman when playing poker
  • Devoting 40-50 hours per week to playing poker
  • Poker is Duhamel’s only source of income, aside to his investments
  • Uses his above-average math skills to improve his chances of winnings
  • Obtains a sponsorship contract worth $1 million from PokerStars

Two items stand out from the crowd. PokerStars paying Duhamel $1 million is the first. The court documents show PokerStars paid Duhamel $480,000 in cash and paid for $520,000 worth of tournament entries.

The fact Duhamel only banked $4.8 million from his WSOP Main Event victory is the other. He swapped percentages with other players to limit his potential losses. Winning the Main Event resulted in Duhamel paying $4.1 million. He also paid 30% tax, less these swaps, to the Inland Revenue Service (IRS), or $1,453,293. Many Canadians refuse to play at the WSOP because of a lack of a tax treaty with the U.S.

2010 WSOP Champion Claims All Winnings Are Due to Luck

Duhamel lives in Quebec and 100% believes he doesn’t owe any taxes to the CRA. His $8.9 million WSOP prize from 2010 was “only the result of chance”, his lawyer said.

Furthermore, he claims to never have received any poker-specific training. He also states he’s never used a system to overcome chance or control his chances of winning.

The WSOP Main Event victory gave Duhamel a certain notoriety. PokerStars advertised Duhamel as a professional poker player as a marketing ploy.

None of the parties involved are prepared to talk about the case because it’s currently in the courts. It will be interesting to see the outcome, not least how Duhamel can afford to pay the $1.8 million bill.

His sponsorship with PokerStars ended in 2015 and multi-billionaire Guy Laliberte no longer stakes him. Add to that Duhamel hasn’t played a live event for two years and hasn’t been seen playing online poker, and we could find the former World Champion in a whole heap of trouble.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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