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Self-employed Canadians now don’t have to repay CERB funds

Self-employed Canadians who collected the Canada Emergency Response Benefit but were later ruled ineligible and told to pay the funds back, have now been told they don’t have to return the funds.

Ottawa has announced that self-employed individuals who applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and would have qualified based on their gross income will not be required to repay the benefit, provided they also met all other eligibility requirements. The same approach will apply whether the individual applied through the Canada Revenue Agency or Service Canada.

“From day one we said we would be there to help Canadians get through this difficult time,” said Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, in a news release. “Emergency supports like the CERB helped millions of Canadians pay for things like food and rent. We made the CERB’s eligibility criteria as broad and inclusive as possible so that workers who needed support could get it. This announcement is giving certainty to self-employed Canadians who applied for the CERB in good faith, while also protecting their financial well-being. We have gone to great lengths to support workers during this pandemic, and will continue to do so as we build back better together.”

This means that, self-employed individuals whose net self-employment income was less than $5,000 and who applied for the CERB will not be required to repay the CERB, as long as their gross self-employment income was at least $5,000 and they met all other eligibility criteria.

Some self-employed individuals whose net self-employment income was less than $5,000 may have already voluntarily repaid the CERB. The CRA and Service Canada will return any repaid amounts to these individuals. Additional details will be available in the coming weeks.

In addition, today, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced that the Government of Canada will provide targeted interest relief to Canadians who received COVID-related income support benefits. Once individuals have filed their 2020 income tax and benefit return, they will not be required to pay interest on any outstanding income tax debt for the 2020 tax year until April 30, 2022. This will give Canadians more time and flexibility to pay if they have an amount owing.

To qualify for targeted interest relief, individuals must have had a total taxable income of $75,000 or less in 2020 and have received income support in 2020 through one or more of the following COVID-19 measures:

  • the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB); 
  • the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB); 
  • the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB); 
  • the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB); 
  • the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB); 
  • Employment Insurance benefits; or 
  • similar provincial emergency benefits.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will automatically apply the interest relief measure for individuals who meet these criteria.

Additionally, any CRA-administered credits and benefits normally paid monthly or quarterly, such as the Canada Child Benefit and the goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax credit will not be applied to reduce individuals’ tax debt owing for the 2020 tax year. Canadians are strongly encouraged to file their tax returns by the filing deadline to ensure that their benefit payments continue without interruption.

The Government of Canada recognizes that many Canadians continue to face serious financial impacts as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The interest relief measure announced today will provide an estimated 4.5 million low- and middle-income Canadians with the flexibility required to feel confident about accessing the COVID-19 income support without facing additional stress at tax time.

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