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Many Canadians won't have to repay CERB despite notices

Last Updated Feb 9, 2021 at 11:46 am PDT

Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canadians who accessed CERB based on gross income, not net income, won't have to return payments: Trudeau

Thousands of repayment letters went out last year to self-employed Canadians saying they had to repay CERB

Feds providing one year without interest on certain 2020 tax debt

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The federal government says thousands of Canadians who were told they’d have to give back money they received from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments won’t have to.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained Tuesday that people who applied for the CERB based on their gross income instead of their net income are in the clear.

“As long as you meet the other eligibility criteria, you will not have to return those CERB payments,” the prime minister said.

Thousands of repayment letters went out last year to self-employed Canadians. They’d been told that to qualify for the CERB they had to have earned at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months before they applied.

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But how to calculate that income became a sticking point, with confusion over whether it meant income before or after expenses were deducted.

In turn, upwards of 400,000 people were told they’d have to repay because they weren’t in fact eligible for them.

“When we rolled out CERB last March, it was because people needed help in the face of a global, once-in-a-generation crisis,” Trudeau said. “Well the pandemic isn’t yet over, so neither is our support.”

Related video: CERB repayment concerns grow

The Government of Canada has since introduced a number of new benefits. They include the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, and an enhanced Employment Insurance program. New wage subsidies and business loans introduced during the pandemic are also still available.

Employment tax interest

With tax season quickly approaching, Trudeau urged Canadians to take advantage of the deductions and credits.

He said the federal government would be providing one year without interest on certain 2020 tax debt, offering Canadians a little flexibility if they need to repay amounts owing from last year.

“If you received federal emergency benefits, like the CERB, and you made up to $75,000 in taxable income, you will not have to pay interest on 2020 tax debt until April of next year (2022),” Trudeau explained.