19/08/16 The Meaning of ‘Costs’ and ‘Expenses’

e-legal lesson

The couplet costs and expenses occurs routinely in contracts and other financial and legal documents, as in the following example:
If an action is instituted to collect this Note, the Company shall pay all costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, incurred in connections with that action.
Black’s Law Dictionary says that expense means “an expenditure of money, time, labor, or resources to accomplish a result; esp., a business expenditure chargeable against revenue for a specific period.” By contrast, it defines costs more narrowly, as “the charges or fees taxed by the court, such as filing fees, jury fees, courthouse fees, and reporter fees.”
In other words, costs are a type of expense. It follows that the couplet costs and expenses is analogous, semantically, to trousers and clothing – you can do without one of the two elements. Refer instead to court costs, other litigation costs, and any other expenses (or some variation), or drop costs and use only expenses.