Tax Court of Canada Cautions Against Representation by Non-Lawyers
On August 6, 2020, the Tax Court of Canada (“TCC”) disposed of a motion by the National Benefit Authority Corporation (“NBA”), requesting, among other things, the TCC’s recognition of their ability to act as representatives for hundreds of Disability Tax Credit (“DTC”) appeals. Previously, the TCC was under the impression that instead of the NBA being the representative on record for the hundreds of DTC appeals, it was instead their employee, Elias Levy, who had carriage of all their ongoing appeals.
The appeals were initiated on behalf of an extensive amount of Canadian taxpayers, who were abruptly denied their disability tax credits. The importance of DTCs cannot be overstated for those who suffer from debilitating conditions that affect their quality of life and ability to maintain employment. In contemplation of the importance of the DTCs, the TCC cautioned against representatives who are unable to competently navigate the legal process.
In an Interim Order on July 17, 2020, the NBA had sought to take over as representative on record for all of Elias Levy’s ongoing DTC appeals. The TCC hesitantly obliged and provided a variety of reasons for their apprehension. First, as of July 9, 2020, the NBA was involved in the filing of 1,084 appeals under the TCC’s informal procedure, 701 of which were still ongoing at that time. Justice Rossiter of the TCC stated that the NBA employees who had appeared at case conferences for the ongoing DTC appeals were unfamiliar with the rules governing Informal Procedure, ultimately delaying the appeals, and in some cases, jeopardizing the appeals themselves. He further stated:
“In some cases, the appellants were not aware their appeals had been filed in cities far from their places of residence. In other cases, the appellants were not aware that an appeal had been filed at all. This has led to some appeals being withdrawn or dismissed, and has also led to the TCC imposing costs orders against Elias Levy”.
The Court was further concerned that the NBA had been taking steps in the litigation process without any authorization from the appellants. Ultimately, the TCC allowed the NBA to take over Levy’s appeals. This lasted a short while and on August 6, 2020, the TCC denied the NBA’s capacity to act as a representative for the ongoing DTC appeals.
According to ss. 17.1 and 18.14 of the Tax Court of Canada Act, an agent who is not a lawyer is permitted to represent a party only if the appeal is governed by the TCC’s informal procedure. Many of the NBA employees leading the DTC appeals were not lawyers and had little to no legal training. According to the rules of Informal Procedure, the NBA should hypothetically be able to represent the DTC appellants at the TCC. However, after wasting the many chances given to them by the TCC, it was ultimately held that the NBA lacked the capacity to effectively represent the DTC appellants. The case of the NBA and the DTC appeals demonstrates that the rules of the TCC are highly technical (even under the informal procedure). Persons dealing with matters at the Tax Court of Canada will likely benefit from consultation with an experienced tax lawyer.
If you are involved with a DTC appeal or any other matter before the TCC, schedule a free consultation today.
This article provides information of a general nature only. It does not provide legal advice nor can it or should it be relied upon. All tax situations are specific to their facts and will differ from the situations in the articles. If you have specific legal questions, you should consult a lawyer.