The Law Society of British Columbia has issued a $9,000 fine to a Kamloops lawyer after he failed to pay his government remittances in full and on time in 2017 and 2018.
According to the hearing panel’s decision, James Webber of Webber Law racked up around $142,870.30 in arrears over the two years.
The document shows the 81-year-old collected GST from his clients but didn’t remit the funds and interest due to Canada Revenue Agency (10,870.30). The same happened for employee payroll source deductions (132,000).
The society says Webber moved to a new office in 2017 and had a low volume of business that year. In 2018, there were insufficient funds in the firm’s general account to meet all financial obligations, according to the decision. Webber laid off one associate lawyer and one support staff in 2018 in order to lower overhead costs.
He self-reported both years that he was unable to pay his remittances due to a cash flow shortage.
The GST arrears were paid off in full as of May 2019, the society notes. As of June 30, 2020, approximately $98,000 remained outstanding in unremitted payroll source deductions.
“The Respondent has further acknowledged that he was aware of the arrears and that he used the collected GST and payroll source deductions to pay other financial obligations of his firm,” the decision states, noting Webber has acknowledged responsibility for the misconduct and has cooperated with the law society throughout its investigation.
A $9,000 fine, plus costs of $1,000, were submitted as part of a joint submission.
The panel described the fine as “fair and reasonable.”
“The Respondent, despite having practised law for over 50 years, demonstrated a gross lack of judgment in the continued organization and operation of his law practice. He used monies collected from his clients, which were due to the government and collected for that purpose, to keep his ailing practice afloat. … Such conduct is simply not acceptable for a member of the profession,” the decision reads.
Webber continues to pay down the owed remittances. The law society has given him until Sept. 30, 2020 to pay the $10,000.
You can read the full decision here.