Lefebvre v. The Queen – TCC: Lawyer allowed limited deduction for office premises expenses

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http://decision.tcc-cci.gc.ca/tcc-cci/decisions/en/item/72945/index.do New Window

Lefebvre v. The Queen (July 16, 2014 – 2014 TCC 225) was a case in which Mr. Lefebvre sought to deduct certain expenses in connection with his office premises:

[1] This appeal relates to Mr. Lefebvre’s 2008 and 2009 taxation years in which the Minister of National Revenue (the “Minister”) disallowed certain expenses which he had claimed as business expenses of his law practice. The only amounts at issue in this appeal are $14,257 and $8,486 in 2008 and 2009 respectively as follows:
                                          2008        2009
Maintenance & Repair     $9,048      $3,718
Telephone and Utilities     $3,226     $3,287
Property Taxes                 $1,983     $1,480
Total                               $14,257     $8,486


[2] The Appellant practiced law as a sole practitioner under the name of “The Law Office of Jean-Marc Lefebvre, Q.C.”(“Law Practice”). During the years at issue, the Law Practice operated out of a building owned by the Appellant’s numbered company. The details with respect to the ownership of this building are as follows.

[3] In 1989 the Appellant purchased a 100 year old brick building in Alexandria, Ontario from the Royal Bank of Canada. In 1991, he transferred the building to his spouse and himself as joint tenants. In 1997, he and his spouse, as landlords, leased the building to the Appellant’s Law Practice. The lease was a triple net lease (“Lease”) under which the Law Practice became responsible for the property taxes, utilities, maintenance, insurance costs and “all other charges, impositions, costs and expenses of every nature and kind whatsoever” in respect of the “premises”.
In 1998, the building was sold to a numbered company which was owned by the Appellant.

[4] The building had office space on the ground floor and a residential apartment on the top two floors. During the relevant years, the Law Practice used the ground floor and the basement of the building for its business and the Appellant lived in the apartment on the top two floors of the building.

The court held that the bulk of the expenses at issue were properly disallowed since they related to the apartment occupied by the appellant and not his office premises. The court did however allow a modest amount for replacing light fixtures in the office in 2009:

[31] With respect to the light fixtures, the Appellant stated that he participated in a program offered by the Government of Ontario. Fifty-six ballasts were replaced in his fluorescent lighting with the aim that it would make the lighting more efficient and reduce his hydro bills. The Appellant complained that he has not seen any savings on his hydro bills and his Law Practice should be able to deduct the amount of $2,314.64 as a current expense. Only the light fixtures in the space occupied by the Law Practice were updated.

[32] It is my opinion that the replacement of the ballasts on the light fixtures was not capital in nature. It was a current expenditure of the Law Practice.

[33] In conclusion, the Minister correctly disallowed the Law Practice to deduct the entire charges for telephone, utilities and property taxes. Some of these charges were incurred by the Appellant in his personal capacity. The ratio of business versus personal use of the building was given to the Minister by the Appellant [72% to 28%]. The appeal is allowed and the Appellant is entitled to deduct the amount of $2,316.74 in 2009.

Thus the appellant achieved a limited success.