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B.C. tribunal nixes man's 'excessive' tax accounting claim

B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal found an accountant's fees were reasonable and ordered a client to pay up.
A client must pay his tax accountant's fees, B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled.

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal has approved a Vancouver tax accountant’s attempt to get $4,839 for his services — work for which the client said he was overcharged.

In his Dec. 1 decision, tribunal member Eric Regehr said Douglas Cright signed a retainer agreement on June 14, 2021, for tax preparation and related advice.

Under the heading ‘fees,’ Cright agreed to pay the applicant’s ‘usual billing rate.’ The agreement did not say what that billing rate was.

On Nov. 16, 2021, Emil Manchulenko, doing business as EWM Consulting, gave Cright an invoice for $4,839.74. The invoice broke down Manchulenko’s 9.6 hours of billable time in detail. He charged $395 per hour, for a total fee of $3,792.

“It is clear from this invoice that almost all (Manchulenko’s) work was assisting the respondent with transitioning their business from a sole proprietorship to a corporation, including the incorporation process itself,” Regehr said.

The invoice also included $675 in fees from another accounting firm, Alistair & Victor, which Manchulenko subcontracted for some accounting and bookkeeping work.

Regehr said Alistair & Victor’s invoice names EWM Consulting as the client.

“I find that (Manchulenko) either paid the invoice or is legally obligated to do so,” Regehr said.

The tribunal said Manchulenko provided copies of various emails to Cright and his lawyer about the incorporation, including discussions about share structure, corporate governance, and other technical details.

“These emails indicate that the applicant reviewed the incorporation documents that the lawyer had prepared and ensured that they met the respondent’s needs,” Regehr said. “It is apparent from those emails that (Manchulenko) also had multiple phone calls with both (Cright) and the lawyer.”

Regehr said Cright’s submissions about the fees were very brief.

“They say that the applicant’s billing was excessive and disproportionate, without explaining how or why,” Regehr said, noting Cright claimed Manchulenko did work he did not ask him to do.

“He does not explain what work this was,” Regehr said. “I am left with no explanation about what charges the respondent considers excessive and no opinion from another accountant about the invoice’s reasonableness. On my review of the invoice and associated emails, I see nothing obviously unreasonable or excessive in the invoice.”

Regehr found Manchulenko’s charges reasonable and ruled Cright must pay them as well as $175 in tribunal fees.

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