The Canada Revenue Agency says it knows some people were able to get the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) twice by applying through its portal, as well as Service Canada’s, and wants that money back.
The COVID-19 relief benefit has since been replaced by a transition to Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). But, even though the last pay period was August 30 to September 26, you can still apply for CERB retroactively for all pay periods until December 2, 2020.
The CRA says the double dipping was likely inadvertent.
“The CERB program is open both to Canadians who qualify for employment insurance (EI) and those who do not, as long as they have lost their income due to COVID-19. For those who became eligible for EI on March 15 or later, those EI claims were automatically transferred to CERB. This led to some clients, inadvertently applying for financial support at both Service Canada and the CRA in the first few days of the CERB program,” the CRA told Yahoo Finance Canada.
“The CRA is sending letters to the individuals who have benefited from CERB payment(s) issued by the CRA and by Service Canada that they are required to repay an amount to the CRA. Individuals who receive the letter but have already repaid can disregard the letter.”
What if you can’t repay the CRA?
The CRA says it shares information with Service Canada to catch people after the fact who got CERB twice. If they pay the money back before December 31 the agency won’t improperly issue a tax slip. Those who can’t pay it back could run into trouble.
“The CRA makes every effort to work with taxpayers to resolve their debt, but should we be unable to reach a mutually satisfactory payment arrangement, collections measures such as applying future credits and refunds to debts, or taking legal action such as garnishment may be required,” said the CRA.
To date, CRA says it has received 890,000 repayments through its My Service Portal.
Insolvency trustee Hoyes, Michalos & Associates works with Canadians on debt relief. Co-founder Doug Hoyes says clients have received letters requesting repayment. He says confusion was the primary cause.
“They couldn’t get through on the phone lines, so they applied through one. And when they didn’t get an immediate acknowledgement, they applied through the other, and since the two systems were not speaking to each other, some people received double,” Hoyes told Yahoo Finance Canada.
Hoyes says busy phone lines meant people weren’t able to call the CRA to arrange repayment, so they just held on to the money until the agency contacted them.
“The people who ended up returning to work quickly and didn’t need to rely on the money were able to set it aside, and so some of them will be able to pay it back and that will be the end of it,” he said.
“However, many needed it to live, or thought they were entitled to it and they spent it, and now they have a problem.”
Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.