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About taxation of costs

What taxation of costs means

In the legal context, if the court orders costs to be taxed, parties will have to attend a separate taxation hearing at a later date for the court to assess the amount of costs payable.

At the taxation hearing, the registrar will consider a document known as a Bill of Costs submitted by the receiving party (usually the winning party) to decide the quantum (amount) of costs payable by the paying party (usually the losing party).

The registrar will determine each disputed item in the Bill of Costs after hearing objections and submissions from each party.

Note
The registrar at the taxation hearing may not be the same judge who has heard the main case.

Bill of Costs

A Bill of Costs includes fees, charges, expenses and remuneration (in 3 separate sections) for:

  • Work done in the civil case.
  • Work done for and in the taxation of costs.
  • All disbursements (out-of-pocket expenditure) made in the civil case.

The Bill of Costs may be filed to claim one of the following:

Bases of taxation

The standard basis and the indemnity basis are the 2 methods for calculating the amount of costs taxed.

In general, costs awarded on the standard basis will be of a lower quantum (amount) than costs awarded on the indemnity basis.

Taxation on a standard basis means that the receiving party has to show that a particular item was reasonably incurred or reasonable in amount and therefore should be allowed.

If there is any doubt over whether the item was reasonably incurred or of a reasonable amount, the registrar will resolve the question in favour of the paying party.

The standard basis is the default basis of party-and-party costs. This means that if the court does not indicate that the party-and-party costs are being taxed on any other basis, the order of costs is being made on a standard basis.

Example

The receiving party to be paid is seeking reasonable costs of $5,000 but the paying party disagrees and says reasonable costs should only be $3,000.

If there is doubt as to which amount is correct and both versions are reasonable, the registrar taxing the Bill of Costs will decide in favour of the paying party and fix it at $3,000.

Taxation on an indemnity basis means that all costs will be allowed except for those of an unreasonable amount or which have been unreasonably incurred. If the registrar has any doubts as to whether the item was reasonably incurred or of a reasonable amount, they will resolve the question in favour of the receiving party.

The indemnity basis is the default basis of solicitor-and-client costs.

Example

Assume that for a case heard in the General Division of the High Court, the receiving party to be paid in an application to set aside a regular judgment seeks reasonable costs of $18,000 which includes the receiving party's actual solicitor-and-client costs.

Appendix G of the Supreme Court Practice Directions states that the range of costs payable in such an application is usually between $2,000 and $19,000 for party-and-party costs.

If the court has ordered costs to be awarded on the indemnity basis and the paying party disputes the amount and claims that out of the $18,000, the paying party should only pay $14,000 as $4,000 was spent on an unnecessary step taken and was unreasonably incurred.

If the court has ordered costs to be awarded on an indemnity basis and if there is doubt over whether the $4,000 was reasonably incurred and both versions are reasonable, the registrar taxing the Bill will decide in favour of the receiving party and allow the $4,000 claimed for.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more

Resources

Legislation associated with this topic includes Order 59 of the Rules of Court.

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