Tag: section 98 insurance (vehicle) act

Clarity Provided by BC Court of Appeal on Tax Deductions in ICBC Loss of Income Awards


There has been some uncertainty in the law over the past few years over the amount that is to be deducted by trial judges when awarding past income loss in tort claims arising from BC motor vehicle collisions.  This issue was clarified in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Court of Appeal.
In today’s case (Laxdal v. Robbins) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision and sued for damages.  She was awarded $3,306 for past loss of income.  Section 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act requires past income loss awards to be reduced to “net income loss” after taking income tax into account.
The trial judgement did not reduce the wage loss award finding that “In my view, the authorities support the conclusion that where the gross award is at or below the amount exempt from taxation, there would be no tax payable so that the net past income loss would be the same as the gross past income loss….Accordingly there will be no deduction for income tax as the amount of past wage loss is below the personal exemption”
ICBC disagreed and appealed this finding.  ICBC argued that any past loss of income awards need to be combined with actual income earned during the year of the loss and tax consequences need to be determined using the global figure.  The BC Court of Appeal agreed and provided the following clarity in this contentious area of personal injury law:

[18]         I have concluded that the trial judge was incorrect in interpreting ss. 95 and 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act as not requiring a reduction in her award for past loss of income to reflect the tax consequences when that loss is combined with earned income during the same period. The words of those sections must be read in their grammatical and ordinary sense.

[19]         Having found that the losses all occurred in 2006, the trial judge ought to have combined the respondent’s 2006 income with the past income loss award for the purpose of determining the income she would have earned for income tax purposes “as if she had continued working” (as per Tysoe J.A. at para. 185 of Lines). To achieve this result, the appellant proposed the use of what has been referred to as the “stacking approach”.

[20]         I am satisfied that, where an income loss can be attributed to a particular tax year or years, the language of ss. 95 and 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act requires a resort to the stacking approach. Although Tysoe J.A. explained in the examples he referred to in Lines that “it was the intention of the Legislature to give a discretion to the judge to determine what period or periods are appropriate for the determination of net income loss in all of the circumstances”, once that determination is made, the legislation requires a deduction from the gross income loss to take into account the provisions of the Income Tax Act of British Columbia, the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Employment Insurance Act of Canada for the relevant year or years…

[22]         As Tysoe J.A. observed in Lines at para. 180:

… It does seem somewhat odd for the income loss allocated to a particular year to be reduced according to one set of tax rules (i.e., the tax rules for the preceding year), while the plaintiff’s actual earnings for that year are taxed according to a different set of tax rules (i.e., the tax rules for the year in which the income was earned).

[23]         The application of the stacking approach in accordance with the legislation will result in the combination of the award for past income loss with the other income earned for the same year, but the application of the enumerated legislation from the preceding year to only that portion of the total income for that year represented by the award. While the result is a cumbersome calculation, I see no need to resort to any exceptional construction of the legislation, as discussed by Lamer J., as he then was, in R. v. Paul, [1982] 1 S.C.R. 621 at 662, in order to achieve the legislative intent of ss. 95 and 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. Section 95(a) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act refers in each of its subsections to taxes or premiums as the enumerated Acts “read on December 31 of the calendar year before the calendar year in respect of which the net income loss is to be determined”. In my view, this wording accommodates awards for either single or multiple years of income loss by permitting a judge to allocate the loss as discussed at para. 184 of Lines, and to then subject the award for that year or years to the effect of the specified legislation based on their provisions for the preceding year.

[24]         A feature of the present legislation that does not arise in this case is the inability of a person injured in a motor vehicle collision to take advantage of any tax planning, such as a contribution to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan. In Lines Tysoe J.A. concluded at paras. 190-194 that such a notional contribution could not be allowed when calculating net income loss under ss. 95 and 98. While the inability to take advantage of such tax planning will not place the injured person in the same position that he or she would have been in, but for the accident, the application of the stacking approach will come as close to so doing as possible, while at the same time giving effect to the intent of the Legislature.

[25]         In this case, the respondent’s total reported income for the year 2006 was $40,175.00. The respondent paid $6,024.05 for federal and provincial income tax that year, which represented an overpayment of $202.26.

[26]         I conclude that the appropriate means by which to arrive at the respondent’s net past income loss is:

a)       to determine her income from other sources during 2006 ($40,175.00);

b)       add that figure to her income loss after taking into account the sick benefits she received ($3,306.24);

c)       determine the tax that would be payable on $43,481.24, based upon the 2005 income tax rules and regulations by computing the amount in accordance with the provisions of theIncome Tax Act of British Columbia, the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Employment Insurance Act of Canada applicable to the calendar year ending December 31, 2005 and on $40,175.00 based upon the 2006 income tax rules and regulations by computing the amount in accordance with the provisions of the Income Tax Act of British Columbia, the Income Tax Act of Canada and the Employment Insurance Act of Canada;

d)       subtract the difference between the two tax figures determined in c, above;

e)       then deduct d from the income loss award, net of sick benefits that she received.

Do I Have to Pay Income Taxes on My ICBC Injury Claim Settlement?


Well folks, it’s that time of year again, tax time.  Time to figure out how much we’ve all earned and make sure that we pay the Government their cut.
If you settled a tort claim from a BC motor vehicle collision do you have to pay income taxes on the amount?  The short answer is no.
Generally a personal injury settlement covers a lot of areas which are not taxable, for example money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, past medical expenses, future medical expenses. and so on. Oftentimes a settlement also includes money for past/future wage loss (also known as awards for diminished capacity).  You would think this portion of a settlement would be taxable but it is not.  The reason being that there is a restriction limiting past wage loss awards from BC motor vehicle accident tort claims to “net income”.  This restriction is set out in s.98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act which reads as follows:


You can click here to read more about the net income tax restriction for past wage loss awards in bc motor vehicle accident litigation.  As a result of s. 98 the amount of tax payable is already deducted before judgement/settlement making the money non-taxable.

Jury Instructions For ICBC Injury Claims With Multiple Years of Past Wage Loss

If you have an ICBC Injury Claim heading for a Jury Trial reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating an effective ‘charge‘ to the Jury where multiple years of past income loss are at issue.
Section 98 of the BC Insurance (Vehicle) Act limits past income loss awards to ‘net’ income loss in negligence claims stemming from BC motor vehicle collisions (Click here to read my previous post on this topic for some background).   This limitation in law can significantly reduce a Plaintiff’s damages in a BC Injury Claim and reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Wittenberg v. Ellis) the Plaintiff sued for damages as a result of a 2005 car crash.  After a jury trial damages of over $2 Million dollars were awarded which included an award for $1,420,000 in past income loss.  The court was asked to make the appropriate deduction under s. 98 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act and ultimately decided that the past wage loss had to be reduced by $594,774 in order to comply with the legislation.
In a recent case by the BC Court of Appeal (Lines v. Gordon) the Court clarified how past income awards by juries will be taxed to comply with section 98.  Specifically the Court of Appeal held that “There will be a wide variety of circumstances facing trial judges.  In each case, the trial judge will have to decide whether it is appropriate in the circumstances before him or her to calculate net income loss on the basis of one period, calendar-year periods or other multiple periods.  In making a decision in this regard, the trial judge should consider all of the circumstances and apply s. 98 in a manner that is most consistent with the principles of damage assessment to which I have referred.
Today’s case demonstrates keen trial skills by the Plaintiff’s lawyer as he asked the judge to instruct the Jury to focus on the claimed income loss on a year by year basis.  The Jury did indeed award damages on a year by year basis.  As a result Madam Justice Boyd was able to assess the income tax consequences for each year.  If the Plaintiff’s lawyer was not savvy enough to get this instruction the Jury could have awarded the past income loss as a lump sum and the award could have been taxed as if the money was all earned in one tax year.  This would have resulted in a significantly greater reduction for the Plaintiff.
This case also addressed whether a personal plaintiff can use a corporate tax rate when there is evidence that the past income claimed would have been earned through a corporation.  Madam Justice Boyd held that s. 98 does not permit this and Plaintiff’s need to have past income taxed based on personal tax rates, specifically she held as follows:

[39] I agree with the defence submission that this is the exact result which would occur if the plaintiff at bar is permitted to rely on a corporate tax rate for the bulk of his income loss award.  Like the RRSP deduction, corporate tax rates offer the deferral of the personal tax burden, but only until the owner/shareholder withdraws the corporate funds for personal use, at which time personal income tax must be paid on the funds.  As the award for net income loss will be paid to Mr. Wittenberg and not to his corporation, in effect, it will be as if earnings had been withdrawn from the corporation and taken into Mr. Wittenberg’s personal income.

[40] Permitting the plaintiff to rely on corporate tax rates for part of his income loss award in this case would enable him to avoid entirely his statutory obligation to pay personal income tax rates on personal income theoretically drawn from the corporation.  The result would be over-compensation.  Such an outcome would consequently place Mr. Wittenberg in a better position than he would have been in if he had not been injured.  In my view, this result is impermissible under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, income tax legislation, and the general principles of damage assessment noted above.

[41] The correct approach is for the jury award for past income loss to be taxed at the personal income tax rate, as required by s. 95 of the Act.

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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