A taxpayer should be careful when deciding whether or not to retain a tax lawyer.
If the appeal is under the Informal Procedure Rules and the amount involved is not too significant, it makes sense to be self-represented. Taxpayers who are self-represented can take comfort in the fact that the Tax Court of Canada is used to having taxpayers represent themselves and will try, within the bounds of what is permissible, to help them navigate the process. That being said, a Tax Court judge can only do so much and the ultimate responsibility rests with the taxpayer to prepare and present his case.
If the appeal is under the General Procedure Rules, some factors to consider before retaining a tax lawyer include:
- How complex are the issues under appeal?
- What is the amount at stake in the appeal?
- How expensive would it be to retain a tax lawyer?
- How familiar is the taxpayer with the legal system?
- Does the taxpayer have the background and resources to get up to speed with the process?
- How much time can the taxpayer devote to the appeal?
- How emotional is the taxpayer about the case?
A taxpayer should not underestimate the complexity of properly handling a case through the litigation process. There are many nuances in the law and strategic factors to consider. The ultimate question is whether or not the taxpayer can adequately represent himself in court. If the answer is no, he should consider retaining a tax lawyer.
Last updated: October 5, 2015