I got the CERB but did not qualify. What can I do?

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program ended December 2, 2020. The (CRA) is now reviewing CERB applications to make sure people qualified for the money. If they decide that you did not qualify, you may have to pay the money back.

The Government of Canada has information to help you find out if you need to pay back the CERB.

Net income versus gross income

It was not clear to many self-employed people and contractors whether the CERB required $5,000 in gross income or net income. Gross income means your income before expenses. Net income means your income after expenses. On February 9, 2021, the government said that people who had $5,000 in either gross or net income won't have to repay CERB money if they met the other requirements.

What to do if the CRA contacts you

If you receive a letter from the CRA saying you might not have been eligible for the CERB, read the letter carefully. Many of these letters are not asking for the money back.

They may just say that the CRA can't confirm that you were eligible. This might be because you:

  • earned more income than expected while you were getting the CERB,
  • applied for the CERB from both Service Canada and the CRA at the same time, or
  • did not file your taxes for 2019 or 2020

To solve the problem, you might only have to file your 2019 and 2020 taxes, instead of having to pay the money back.

If you can’t pay the money back

If the CRA says you have to pay the money back, but you can't afford to, try to get legal help. You might be able to:

Or, you might be able to avoid repaying the money at all.

To ask the CRA to cancel penalties or interest, fill in and send them form RC4288 Request for Taxpayer Relief.

Paying back the CERB

If you're sure that you have to repay the CERB, there are several ways to do it. You can send payments by mail, online banking, or in person at your bank or credit union.

When you repay the CERB, you must report the payment on your tax form for that year.

You can learn more in the Government of Canada's CERB repayments on your T4E. 

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