Taxation of Legal Costs in South Africa

October 1st, 2014

By Rochelle Francis-Subbiah

Cape Town: Juta

(2013) 1st edition

Price: R 550 (incl VAT)

442 pages (soft cover)

Of all the books currently available on legal costs, this book provides clear and practical guidance on the taxation of costs.

The author has gone to great lengths to assist and guide the reader in approaching and determining reasonable costs in accordance with the existing rules and tariffs. Although it is common knowledge that taxation entails the quantification of legal costs, there is still much debate on the underlying applicable principles in preparing the different kinds of bills of costs and the taxation of these. This is where the book excels in explaining the processes of taxation on a step-by-step basis so that the user may arrive at taxed fees and costs that are reasonable.

The book identifies the main elements of taxation. The author deals in detail with and explains the practices, rules, tariffs and judgments, as well as the discretion of the taxing master and the principles relied on in reviewing taxations. The book contains an analysis of the maximum tariffs that legal practitioners may charge and practical alternatives for solutions to specific issues that arise in practice. It is commendable that the author has invested enormous effort in achieving the intended aim, which is to make the law on taxation of legal costs easier to understand and to provide practical tips and helpful hints to legal practitioners.

This book, in my view, is of equal benefit to all legal practitioners – irrespective of seniority – judicial officers or even members of the public who wish to acquaint themselves with the legal principles applied in the taxation of legal costs. In recent times there has been an increasing public interest in the computation of legal costs and how such costs are taxed and assessed. In my view, this book is an invaluable tool for persons to acquaint themselves with the legal principles of the taxation of legal costs.

The book contains extracts from applicable legislation and cases. In doing so, the main aim is to assist practitioners who practise mainly as costs consultants. The book succeeds in doing just that. In setting out all the practical steps of taxations of bills of costs – which include taxation in general, attorney’s costs and alternative methods to taxation, parties at taxation, process of taxation, the role of the taxing master in general and his or her discretion, reviews of taxations etcetera – the author highlights the consequences that flow from these. Case studies are included and the importance of how bills are prepared is stressed and that the latter should not be taken lightly, even by the more experienced legal costs consultant.

The book is without doubt a useful aid for all those concerned with taxation of legal costs. The author is to be commended for the meticulous attention paid to the table of contents, index, bibliography and schedule of case references, and the arrangement of these.

Sophia Avvakoumides is an attorney at Sophia Avvakoumides Attorney in Pretoria.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (Oct) DR 42.

De Rebus