BC Court of Appeal approves form of order on PST in Christie 

February 10, 2006

The BC Court of Appeal has issued supplementary reasons in Christie v. British Columbia respecting the application of PST to bills for legal services, and has approved a form of order in that case. For reference, see 2006 BCCA 59 (February 10, 2006 supplementary judgment) and 2005 BCCA 631 (December 20, 2005 judgment).

The form of order approved by the Court provides that 1) the appeal is dismissed and the cross appeal allowed to the extent set out in the order;  2) the order of Madam Justice Koenigsberg, given February 8, 2005, is set aside; and the Social Service Tax Amendment Act (No. 2) 1993 S.B.C. c 24 is unconstitutional to the extent that it purports to tax legal services related to the determination of rights and obligations by courts of law or independent administrative tribunals.

On January 12 the provincial government made a commitment to issue guidelines, based on the Court of Appeal decision, regarding the circumstances in which tax should and should not be collected. The Consumer Taxation Branch of the Ministry of Small Business and Revenue stated at that time that lawyers will not be charged penalties or interest for the failure to remit amounts they are holding in trust pending publication of the guidelines: see  www.rev.gov.bc.ca/ctb/Legal_Services_Provided_to_British_Columbians.htm .

The Law Society also issued a notice to the profession suggesting approaches that lawyers may wish to take pending further clarification of the decision in Christie: see Notice to the Profession of January 13. Nothing in the BC Court of Appeal's supplementary reasons would appear to change this advice.

The Law Society recognizes the importance of PST guidelines to both lawyers and their clients. Law Society representatives expect to discuss this matter further with senior officials in the provincial government during the week of February 13 now that the Court of Appeal has approved a form of order. An update will be sent to the profession and published on the Law Society's website at the earliest opportunity.

Lawyers requiring further information should contact practice advisors Barbara Buchanan  (604 697-5816 or bbuchanan@lsbc.org) or Dave Bilinsky (604 605-5331 or dbilinsky@lsbc.org).