The Tax Court’s approach to cost awards has evolved significantly in recent years. The Court’s interpretation and application of the factors under subsection 147(3) and the new settlement offer rules in subsections 147(3.1) to (3.8) of the Tax Court of Canada Rules (General Procedure) indicate that the Court continues to formulate a “new approach” to costs that is much closer to the manner in which other Canadian courts use cost awards to compensate successful parties and control the conduct of the parties during litigation.

The Tax Court’s new approach can be traced to the costs decision in Velcro Canada Inc. v. The Queen (2012 TCC 273) (see our previous blog post here), in which the Court articulated an approach to costs that provided for a reduced role for the “Tariff” amounts (see in Tariff B of Schedule II of the General Procedure Rules) and much greater emphasis on and consideration of the factors under subsection 147(3). Further, the new settlement offer rules in subsections 147(3.1) to (3.8) create a default entitlement to substantial indemnity costs (i.e., 80% of solicitor and client costs) after the date of a settlement offer for a successful party that achieved a result in the appeal that was as good or better than the settlement offer.

This new approach is a welcome development in that it creates a fair system in the Tax Court for compensating a winning party, and raises the stakes for both parties to an appeal.

Three recent costs decisions of the Tax Court provide good examples of the Court’s analysis and awards under this new approach.

Repsol Canada Ltd. 

In Repsol Canada Ltd. v. The Queen (2015 TCC 21) (under appeal), the Tax Court allowed the taxpayer’s appeal and held that certain of the taxpayer’s assets were Class 43 assets for the purposes of the capital cost allowance provisions in the Income Tax Act. The Court awarded costs to the taxpayer.

On its motion for increased costs, the taxpayer asked for substantial indemnity costs under new subsection 147(3.1) of the General Procedure Rules for legal fees incurred after the issuance of its settlement offer, an additional 10% of legal fees incurred after the issuance of its settlement offer, 75% of its legal fees incurred before the issuance of its settlement offer, and reasonable disbursements.

The Tax Court (2015 TCC 154) refused to reduce the taxpayer’s costs that would be subject to the substantial indemnity rule in subsection 147(3.1), held that the substantial indemnity rule applies to the legal fees for a costs motion, and refused to grant additional costs above the substantial indemnity amount for fees incurred after the issuance of its settlement offer.

The Court awarded post-settlement offer costs at 80% of solicitor-client costs ($264,334), pre-settlement offer costs at 50% of solicitor-client costs ($262,051), disbursements ($35,308), and 80% of solicitor-client costs plus reasonable disbursements for the costs motion.

The Crown has appealed the costs decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada

In Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada v. The Queen (2015 TCC 97) (under appeal), the Tax Court dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal and held that the taxpayer was not entitled to a bump in the cost base of certain insurance properties. The Court awarded costs to the Crown.

On its motion for increased costs, the Crown asked for substantial indemnity costs under new subsection 147(3.1) of the General Procedure Rules for legal fees incurred after the issuance of its settlement offer, 50% of legal fees incurred before the issuance of its settlement offer, and reasonable disbursements throughout.

The Tax Court (2015 TCC 138) held that the Crown’s settlement offer was a valid settlement offer that contained an element of compromise (see also the earlier case of Mckenzie v. The Queen (2012 TCC 329)). Accordingly, the taxpayer was entitled to substantial indemnity costs incurred after the issuance of the settlement offer.

The Tax Court made a minor adjustment for the hourly rate of junior counsel and awarded a lump sum amount of $474,663 (which included $37,818 in disbursements).

Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada

In Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada v. The Queen (2015 TCC 37), the Tax Court allowed the taxpayer’s appeal and held that the taxpayer was entitled to certain input tax credits. The Court awarded costs to the taxpayer.

On its motion for a enhanced costs, the taxpayer asked for a lump sum amount of $200,000, which approximated 80% of counsel fees of $157,430, plus taxes of $20,465 and disbursements of $21,365.

The Tax Court (2015 TCC 171) considered the taxpayer’s settlement offer, and concluded that it was a valid settlement offer that was capable of being accepted by the Crown (see also the earlier case of CIBC World Markets Inc. v. The Queen (2012 FCA 3)). Accordingly, the taxpayer was entitled to substantial indemnity costs incurred after the issuance of the settlement offer.

However, the Court reduced the amount of legal fees that would be subject to the 80% substantial indemnity rule because there was no evidence that the client had agreed to pay its counsel’s hourly fees (rather the fee charged to the client was a percentage of the amount recovered). Also, the taxpayer had not provided a detailed breakdown of the fees incurred before and after the issuance of the settlement offer.

Accordingly, the Court awarded substantial indemnity costs of $91,792, plus $1,050 for the Tariff amount for services rendered prior to examination for discovery, plus HST on these amounts (less any amount recoverable as an input tax credit), and disbursements of $21,356.