Almost two months after the benefit ended, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has revealed that up to 213,000 Canadians may have to make Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) repayments.
In a statement shared with CBC News, the CRA confirmed that hundreds of thousands of people may be required to pay back the COVID-19 benefit.
According to the government agency, those required to make repayments didn’t necessarily claim the money fraudulently or unethically.
Instead, applicants may have simply made “an honest mistake when applying."
Either way, ineligible Canadians and applicants who received too much money will have to give it back.
If you've claimed the CERB and think you may be required to pay it back, here's what you need to know:
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Who needs to repay the CERB?
Right now, the CRA is in the process of sending letters to people who may have received benefits they shouldn’t have, warning them that repayments may be necessary.
However, the agency made it clear that the people who are being contacted did not necessarily engage in any fraudulent or unethical behaviour.
Instead, they may have simply made an “honest mistake when applying” for the benefit.
The CRA also noted that some people who receive the letter may have already returned the money voluntarily, or may have simply returned the money to the wrong place.
When does it need to be returned?
Fortunately for those who do need to return the benefit, the CRA isn’t enforcing repayments right now.
A spokesperson confirmed that the letters do not ask for immediate repayment.
Instead, the note simply “informs the taxpayer that there may be a requirement to repay amounts received.”
This is because the federal agency has suspended the collection of debts until the pandemic is over, although it’s not clear exactly when that will be.
"We will resume collections activities when it is responsible to do so, including collection of debts related to CERB payments," the CRA explained.
While it’s not an official requirement, the agency is still advising Canadians to pay back money they’re not entitled to before the end of this year.
If they don’t, the sum will appear on the claimant’s tax slips next year and therefore will need to be reported as income.
Have any CERB payments been returned already?
New data released by the federal government recently revealed that a whopping $81.64 billion was paid out via the CERB.
While this is a significant amount of money, a proportion of it has actually been paid back by Canadians.
On November 5, the CRA told Narcity that over 920,000 voluntary CERB and CESB payments had been received via the government’s “My Account” service.
According to CBC News, this number has now reached 945,000.
As the CERB is taxable, more money will also be returned come tax-time.