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Tax Court Plans to Re-Open – but Timing Uncertain

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tax Court of Canada (the "TCC") has been closed with all hearings cancelled since March 16, 2020.

A recent Notice to the Public and Profession (the "Notice") issued by the TCC has indicated this cancellation of hearings will extend to July 17, 2020 (which would have been the last day of hearings before the TCC's previously scheduled 4-week summer recess).

The Notice also reveals that the TCC has been preparing to re-open.

While the exact timeline for the TCC re-opening remains unknown (the federal government has not yet announced when court staff will be allowed to return to work), the Notice is a strong signal that the TCC expects to be getting back to regular work soon.

The current re-opening plan would see the TCC open and holding hearings during its previously scheduled summer recess (i.e. July 20, 2020 to August 14, 2020) to try and accommodate some of the cancelled hearings from March/April/May.

Sittings scheduled beyond August 17, 2020 would proceed as scheduled, and the TCC registry staff would work to re-schedule the remaining cancelled hearings where and when possible.

However, the current re-opening plan is contingent on the TCC being permitted to resume normal operations within the next few weeks.
Each week that the TCC remains closed the re-opening plan must be modified, and the TCC has indicated that further cancellations of hearings (i.e. August hearings) remain possible.

Temporary "Fast Track Settlement Conference System" – As part of its proposed re-opening plan the TCC also intends to introduce a temporary "Fast Track Settlement Conference System" in the expectation that the Crown Counsel and CRA will all be more willing to send appeals to a judicial settlement conference to try and resolve them without full hearings as a way to clear their respective backlogs.

These Fast Track Settlement Conferences would take place in October and November of 2020, and would require the parties to file a joint conference request brief with the Tax Court.

More information on this Fast Track Settlement Conference System is expected in the form of a Practice Note later in June.

Continued Extension of TCC Deadlines - By way of Practice Note, the TCC continues to effectively extend all deadlines within the Tax Court Rules for the period from March 16, 2020 to a date that is 60 days after the Court and its offices re-open.

Although this Practice Note does not extend the deadline for filing Notices of Appeal with the TCC (which are statutory deadlines the TCC lacks jurisdiction to extend), the TCC has ordered that all Notices of Appeal filed between March 16, 2020 and the date that is 60 days after the Court and its offices re-open will be treated as including an Application for Extension of Time to Appeal brought on the exceptional grounds of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the TCC registry.

In the circumstances, however, anyone considering filing a Notice of Appeal should consult with legal counsel to ensure that they do not miss a filing deadline.

Do you require assistance in this area? If so, contact us here.

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