Rule change facilitates e-filing at Land Title Office

Law firms can pay PTT from trust through electronic funds transfer

Law Society Rule 3-56 "Withdrawal from trust" was amended on March 5, 2004 to allow BC lawyers to make Property Transfer Tax (PTT) payments from their trust accounts via electronic funds transfer, instead of by trust cheque, at the time they submit electronic filings to the Land Title Office. The LTO expects to have its e-filing service available beginning April 1, 2004.

A law firm must first arrange for electronic payment of PTT by authorizing the Ministry of Provincial Revenue and the financial institution(s) at which the firm holds accounts to process debits against specified trust accounts in payment of the Property Transfer Tax.

To do so, the authorized signatory or signatories on the law firm's accounts must complete, digitally sign (with a Juricert-authenticated certificate) and electronically file via BC Online a Property Transfer Tax Electronic Payment Authorization form with the Land Title Branch of the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development.

Each time a law firm subsequently submits a Property Transfer Tax Return in the course of a Land Title Office electronic filing of documents, via BC Online, the firm will confirm the PTT payment amount on the Return. In accordance with the firm's Electronic Payment Authorization, the Ministry of Provincial Revenue will call for the electronic transfer of those funds as a pre-authorized debit on the firm's trust account.

Rule 3-56(1.3), as amended, is set out below. Under the Rule, lawyers are required to maintain copies of all Electronic Payment Authorization forms they submit, all Property Transfer Tax Returns and all transaction receipts provided by the Land Title Office electronic filing system. Law firms will continue to pay land title fees through their BC Online deposit accounts.

Withdrawal from trust

3-56 (1.3) A lawyer must not make or authorize the withdrawal of funds from a pooled or separate trust account, except by

(a) cheque as permitted by subrule (2) or (3),

(b) electronic transfer as permitted by subrule (3.1) or (3.2), or

(c) instruction to a savings institution as permitted by subrule (4).

(2) A lawyer who makes or authorizes the withdrawal of funds from a pooled or separate trust account by cheque must

(a) withdraw the funds with a cheque marked "Trust,"

(b) not make the cheque payable to "Cash" or "Bearer," and

(c) ensure that the cheque is signed by a practising lawyer.

(3.2) A lawyer may make or authorize the withdrawal of funds from a pooled or separate trust account by electronic transfer using the Electronic Filing System of the Land Title Branch for the purpose of the payment of Property Transfer Tax on behalf of a client, provided that the lawyer

(a) retains in the lawyer's records a printed copy of

(i) all Electronic Payment Authorization forms submitted to the Electronic Filing System,

(ii) the Property Transfer Tax return, and

(iii) the transaction receipt provided by the Electronic Filing System,

(b) digitally signs the Property Transfer Tax return in accordance with the requirements of the Electronic Filing System, and

(c) verifies that the money was drawn from the trust account as specified in the Property Transfer Tax return.

(4) A lawyer may instruct a savings institution to pay to the Foundation under Rule 3-52 the net interest earned on a pooled trust account.