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User Fee Design by Canadian Municipalities: Considerations Arising from the Case Law


  • Kelly I.E. Farish

    () (Lawson Lundell LLP, Vancouver)

  • Lindsay M. Tedds

    () (School of Public Administration, University of Victoria)


Municipal governments in Canada have come to rely increasingly on user fees to fund local services, as they struggle to deal with the combined pressures of federal and provincial devolution of responsibility for such services and the political costs of raising property taxes. While there is a substantial body of literature regarding the rationale for user fees, little information exists about how to design and implement a user fee so as to ensure that it satisfies the legal requirements for imposing this type of levy. The authors provide a detailed review of the existing Canadian case law to highlight key legal, technical, and administrative issues facing municipalities in designing and implementing user fees. The discussion focuses in particular on the principal legal tests for user fees and the application of those tests in specific cases. Through their analysis, the authors draw attention to several unresolved issues and inconsistencies in the application and interpretation of the tests, which need to be navigated and addressed by the courts.

Suggested Citation

  • Kelly I.E. Farish & Lindsay M. Tedds, 2014. "User Fee Design by Canadian Municipalities: Considerations Arising from the Case Law," Canadian Tax Journal, Canadian Tax Foundation, vol. 62(3), pages 635-670.
  • Handle: RePEc:ctf:journl:v:62:y:2014:i:3:p:635-670

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Catherine Althaus & Lindsay M. Tedds & Allen McAvoy, 2011. "The Feasibility of Implementing a Congestion Charge on the Halifax Peninsula: Filling the "Missing Link" of Implementation," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 37(4), pages 541-561, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tedds, Lindsay M. & Euper, Brock, 2019. "The Costs of Energy-related Linear Property on Local Governments in Canada and the Role of That Local Government Revenue Tool Can Play in Addressing these Costs," MPRA Paper 96918, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Tedds, Lindsay M., 2018. "Non-tax Revenue for Funding Municipal Governments: Take-up, Constraints, and Emerging Opportunities," MPRA Paper 96919, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Tedds, Lindsay M., 2019. "Who Pays for Municipal Governments? Pursuing the User Pay Model," MPRA Paper 96915, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Tedds, Lindsay M., 2017. "User charges for Municipal Infrastructure in Western Canada," MPRA Paper 96920, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Fees; user charges; municipal finance; tax law;

    JEL classification:

    • H27 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Other Sources of Revenue
    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue


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