The Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland Taxing Office

The following information will give you advice, help and contacts in relation to the Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland Taxing Office.

 Its central role is to provide administrative support to the Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland Taxing Master (Taxing Master) in the assessment (or taxing) of bills of costs for

  • Court of Judicature Civil Cases (High Court)
  • Criminal Appeal Cases
  • Criminal Legal Aid Cases
  • Solicitors’ bills delivered to members of the public who feel they have been charged too high an amount by their Solicitor for legal work carried out.

The Taxing Master also adjudicates on appeals and redetermininations in respect of decisions made by the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission relating to Criminal Costs.

Information for Solicitors/ Barristers

All bills must be lodged with the following information

  • Statement of Parties
  • All Court Orders, Decree Nisi
  • All Legal Aid Certificates
  • Travel Certificates/Disbursement Certificates 
  • Any vouching documentation - counsel fees/receipts etc
  • Bill Of Costs
  • Summary Page

If the bills are not lodged in this manner they will not be accepted by the office.

Where a Solicitor can certify that all disbursements under £300.00 excluding Counsel fees have been paid a Disbursement Certificate will be accepted when the Bill is being lodged.

Once all of the above has been completed, before the bill can be lodged in the office the grid must be completed concerning the 5% stamp duty.Please see attached example for your ease of reference.

When the bill is received by the office it will be checked, registered onto the system and allocated a case number.

After the case has been registered it will go through the checking process.  This is were the counsel fees will be checked against the fee notes provided, the attendance claimed at hearings are verified against the times recorded on the Court Orders along with  the travel expenses and any other disbursements relating to the case.

The bill is then sent to the Master for taxation or listed before the Master for taxation. Any bill in which a responding or notice party is responsible for paying the costs is automatically listed before the Master with the exception of bills arising from Matrimonial proceedings – a hearing will be listed before the Master only if the Responding party responds correctly to a 14 day notice.  All bills which are lodged on a legal aid basis are not listed before the Master unless a specific request is made within 14 days of receipt of the provisional notice of assessment.  Once completed, it will be returned to the office for the assessment and stamp duty to be calculated and forwarded onto the Costs Drawer or Solicitor, depending on who originally lodged the bill.

If the Cost Drawer or Solicitor objects to the assessment a hearing can be requested before the Master to enable the objecting party to put their views forward.  However if they accept the assessment the stamp duty must be paid. 

All vouching must be carried out within one calendar month from the date of issue of the notice or the item will be disallowed, except in special circumstances to be decided by the Master.  If there is a reason why vouching cannot be completed within this time a written explanation will have to be given to The Master for his consideration.

When the stamp duty has been paid and all vouching has been verified the Certificate of Taxation can issue.  The Certificate must then be sent to the Legal Services Commission for payment.

The document below needs to be completed when submitting a bill for taxation as it relates to the initial 5% stamp duty (Court Fee) that is payable.  All of the figures are taken from the bill of costs. 

  • Profit Costs – Can be taken from the summary page of the bill
  • Vat on 95% Profit Costs - If the Solicitor is VAT registered the total profit cost figure above must be multiplied by 20% (depending on the current rate of VAT) and 95% (for Legal Aid only Bills, for Party & Party multiply by the rate of VAT when the proceedings are completed)
  • Counsel Fees – Refer back to the bill of costs and total the amount that counsel wish to claim
  • VAT on 95% Counsel Fees – This is only to be completed if your Counsel is VAT registered.  If you take the total amount multiply by 20% (depending on the current rate of VAT) and by 95%.  *(for Legal Aid only bills, for Party & Party multiply by the rate of VAT when the proceedings are completed)
  • Other Disbursements – Total all of the figures other than Counsel Fees and record here
  • VAT on other Disbursements – The VAT claimed for other disbursements if any, must be totalled
  • Sub Total – All of the above amounts to be added together
  • Stamp Duty at 5% - The sub total amount must then be multiplied by 5%.  The amount calculated must then be sent to the Taxing Office along with the bill of costs to be assessed by the Taxing Master. The maximum initial stamp duty which is payable is set at £3,500.00
     
  •  Application form to submit for Taxation of Bill of Costs

Information for Members of the Public

Please be aware that these are guidelines only, we cannot offer any legal advice.
You are strongly recommended to seek legal advice from a legally trained professional

If you have received a 14 day notice

You have received this notice because there has been a Court Order made stating that you must pay the legal costs of the other side.
The Taxing Master has the task of assessing the costs claimed by the solicitor and deciding whether they are correct and fair for the work done.
Because you have an interest in these costs you are invited to be present when the Master does this assessment at a taxation hearing, which is why you have been sent a copy of the bill. You are under no obligation to arrange a hearing.
Please be aware that there will be VAT and Stamp Duty added to the total figure payable at the end of the taxation/assessment process.
Please note that our office is only concerned with the amount of costs claimed, and unfortunately cannot be of assistance with regards to your financial position or whether you feel you should not have to pay these costs.

If you wish to arrange a hearing

If you do decide to take this opportunity you must notify the office in writing within 14 days of receiving the notice and bill, giving your contact details.
The office will contact you to arrange a suitable time and date to arrange the hearing which will take place at our offices in Bedford House, Bedford Street, Belfast.
If you have arranged a hearing but do not attend please be aware that you will not receive any notification from this office of the outcome of the hearing.
If you do attend the arranged hearing you will receive no further notification from us after the hearing.
The Master can only take into account views expressed at hearing i.e. written submissions will not be accepted.

If you do not wish to proceed to hearing.

If our office has not heard from you within 14 days the bill will proceed to taxation/assessment by the Taxing Master.
You will not be informed by this office of the assessment figures.

After Assessment

The solicitors for the other side will receive a Certificate for these figures which states the amount that you are liable to pay (known as Party & Party amount). Please note that our involvement in the case ends at this stage.
Please be advised that we do not have any involvement with the collection of payment. If the other side was entitled to Legal Aid, the Legal Services Commission will contact you to recover the costs. It is the responsibility of the Solicitors for the other side to inform the Legal Services Commission of these costs.

NB. If you are a solicitor who has received a 14 day notice this is because your address was supplied to us as a contact for your client. You will need to pass this notice on to the client concerned.

Explanation of Hearing Notices

Hearings Listed Before the Taxing Master

Why would I require a hearing before the Taxing Master?

If you have received an assessment from the office and wish to appeal the amounts allowed by the Master you can contact the Taxing Office and arrange to have your case listed before the Master.

If you have a Court Order that includes a party and party element.  For example, if the Court Order has been made in the Queens Bench Division and states that the Defendant pay the Plaintiff, this case will automatically be listed before the Master.  You will be contacted by the Taxing Office to attend a hearing which will take place in Bedford House, Bedford Street, Belfast.

What can I do if I cannot attend the court hearing?

You must contact the legal representation for the opposing side and request an adjournment. If the solicitors do consent they must contact the office to confirm that they are willing to adjourn the case to enable ourselves to inform the Master.

How do I prepare for the hearing before the Taxing Master?

The Taxing Office no longer accepts any papers relating to a case when the bill is lodged in the office as per practice direction by the Master on 10th May 2006. On the day of the hearing the papers relating to the case can be brought along but must be taken away again after the hearing unless requested by the Taxing Master.

Attending the hearing before the Taxing Master

In order to appeal your case you will have to be present at the hearing to put your points across to the Master for his consideration.  Also if the case is party and party it is important the both sides attend the hearing.  The Master will tax the bill however the office is only concerned the amounts allowed on the bill in order to calculate the assessment. 

What happens after the hearing?

After the case has been taxed by the Taxing Master the office will issue the amended assessment to the Solicitor (or cost drawer) and request for stamp duty (which is the court fee). When the stamp duty and vouching has been received a certificate of taxation will issue. We do not collect the monies on foot of the taxed bill of costs when the certificate of taxation is issued. That is the responsibility of the Legal Services Commission if the case has been legally aided or the party to which the costs have been awarded.

Practice Directions

Contact us and help & advice

Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland Taxing Office
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
2nd Floor
Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 3JF

The office can be contacted by telephone on 030 0200 7812.

The office e-mail address is

Useful Links

Below is a list of links to websites of other organisations which may be of benefit to users of the Taxing Office.

Law Society of Northern Ireland

Citizens Advice Bureau

Legal Services Agency

Legal Services Agency Northern Ireland

Complaints

Communications Group
Northern Ireland Court Service 
Laganside House
23 - 27 Oxford Street
Belfast
BT1 3LA

 

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