ACTRA’s Position

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) began issuing letters in late 2020 to recipients informing them they may or may not have been eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) payments they received.

The government was clear when the CERB was introduced: those who needed help should apply without fear of repercussion. The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion in support of not penalizing people who applied in good faith.

The pandemic is not over, and many Canadians are still struggling, including many who applied for the CERB in a time of desperate need.

When the CERB was rolled out last spring, the government said eligibility would be based an individual having employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application. To retroactively change eligibility rules now for some of the most vulnerable Canadians is unjust.

This is why we are calling on the Government of Canada to adhere to its original eligibility requirements, which allowed self-employed Canadians to use their gross pre-tax income when determining their CERB eligibility.

Actions You Can Take

E-mail your Member of Parliament

Call your Member of Parliament
Show your support by calling your Member of Parliament asking them to call on the federal government to adhere to the original CERB eligibility requirements, which stated eligibility would be based an individual having employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

Please feel free to adapt these sample phone scripts for individuals who HAVE received a letter from the CRA and for individuals who have NOT received a letter from the CRA but want to raise their concern.

Sign the House of Commons Petition
You can also add your name to this House of Commons Petition,  which  calls upon the Government of Canada to retroactively allow self-employed Canadians to use their gross pre-tax income before business expenses when determining their CERB eligibility.

Let ACTRA know if you have received correspondence from the CRA about your CERB eligibility
If you received a letter from the CRA regarding your CERB eligibility, please complete this form. ACTRA will only use this information to ascertain aggregate information about the number of ACTRA Members directly affected by the CRA’s request and will not disclose any personal information to other parties.

Frequently Asked Questions about CERB Repayment

Why did I receive a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) began issuing letters in late 2020 for Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) repayment to recipients who may or may not have been eligible for the payments they received.

You may have received a letter from the CRA regarding CERB repayments because it could not confirm if you earned the minimum income required to qualify.

What was the income eligibility requirement for the CERB?

To be eligible to receive the CERB, you must have earned employment or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months before applying.

How will the CRA determine my income?

To verify your income, the CRA will look at your 2019 income tax return, and any T4 or other income slips sent to the CRA.

If you earned income that meets the qualifications, and if you have not already done so, file your 2019 income tax return.

How will the CRA collect repayment?

The CRA has strong collection powers. Currently, Canadians who were not eligible for benefits are being encouraged by the CRA to repay CERB voluntarily. However, the CRA understands many Canadians may have made an honest mistake and are waiving penalties and interest on overpayments.

If the CRA ultimately determines you were not eligible to receive the CERB, and you did not remit payment by December 31, 2020, the CRA will issue a tax slip.

This means the CRA has determined you must repay the amount outlined in this tax slip to the CRA and will allow the CRA to:

  • keep any future tax refunds
  • keep any benefits or credits
What if I can’t repay the CERB I received?

Please contact the CRA at 1-833-966-2099 to discuss your individual circumstances.

What change did the CRA make to income eligibility for the CERB?

When the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was rolled out last spring, the government said eligibility would be based on an individual having employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application.

At the time the CERB was introduced, the government failed to clearly stipulate whether gross or net self-employment income would determine eligibility. When people initially contacted the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to get clarification, they were advised that eligibility would be based on $5,000 gross income.

The CRA is now interpreting income guidelines to mean net income after expenses, not gross income, which resulted in about 441,000 individuals receiving a letter in late 2020 from the CRA informing them they may or may not have been eligible for the CERB payments they received.

The CRA’s position that “income” under the CERB legislation is net of expenses is incorrect. The CERB Act does not define income nor does it contain a single word regarding what expenses should or should not be deducted. It is unreasonable to suggest Parliament intended that income be net of expenses under CERB without providing any mention of what those expenses might be.

Can I support the efforts to STOP the unjust CERB clawback even if I have not received a letter from the CRA?

Yes! Even if you did not receive a letter, you likely know an artist who has. Show your support for your fellow ACTRA Members by calling or sending an E-mail to your MP asking them to support this action.

It's important we all stand together in solidarity for the many self-employed workers who are affected by this unjust CERB clawback.

ACTRA continues to talk to the federal government to find a solution to this issue and will update our members with any new developments.