The Canada Revenue Agency says some taxpayers who repaid COVID-19 related benefits in 2020 are getting incorrect tax slips. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Canada Revenue Agency says some taxpayers who repaid COVID-19 related benefits in 2020 are getting incorrect tax slips. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

CRA says ‘rare’ error in some tax slips lists repaid CERB as taxable income

‘These repayments can be properly and easily credited to the correct account,’ assures CRA spokesperson

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools last spring, crosswalk guard and recent graduate Danny Thomson was encouraged by the Ottawa Safety Council to apply for the new COVID-19 emergency benefits.

But after returning $3,000 in Canada Emergency Response Benefits last year after realizing he was ineligible, he was told by the Canada Revenue Agency that $2,000 has not been repaid and is being considered taxable income for 2020.

The Canada Revenue Agency confirmed this week that some taxpayers who repaid COVID-19 related benefits in 2020 have received incorrect tax slips that wrongly list portions of the repaid benefits as taxable income.

The CRA had previously informed CERB recipients that they must repay the benefit if they earned more income than expected during the four-week payment period, or if they applied and later realized they were ineligible. It also said duplicate CERB payments should be repaid — if recipients applied for and got the CERB from both the CRA and Employment Insurance or Service Canada for the same eligibility period.

CERB recipients who repaid before Dec. 31, 2020, should not have to pay tax on those amounts on 2020 tax returns, the revenue agency’s website notes, with the repaid amounts subtracted from the individual’s benefit amount on T4A slips.

But the tax agency said there is a rare error in which the repayments are credited to a taxpayer’s T1 instalment account instead of their emergency benefits account.

“These repayments can be properly and easily credited to the correct account,” CRA spokesperson Etienne Biram said in a statement.

The CRA said taxpayers should call 1-800-959-8281 to fix incorrect tax slips. It added that it is being proactive and moving the payments to the correct accounts, and that amended tax slips will be issued.

Thomson said three calls to the CRA so far have been unsuccessful as all the agents have been busy each time he called.

Edward Rajaratnam, executive director at EY Canada’s people advisory services, said a phone call to the CRA — preferably in the morning before a queue starts forming on the hotline — is still a better route than a letter, since the error might be difficult to dispute in an online portal.

“My first rule of thumb is, please reach out to the CRA — because if it was a genuine error, they would correct it,” Rajaratnam said.

“(A phone call is ) more personal in nature. Everybody’s situation is different.”

Rajaratnam said he has seen the tax slip issues cropping up across his network, from friends to LinkedIn connections. The first question, he said, is whether the repayment of the emergency benefit was made before Dec. 31. If a taxpayer repaid the benefits in January or February, they’ll have to wait until this time next year to get the adjustment in their 2021 tax filing.

Before filing a complaint, Rajaratnam said it’s also worth checking with your bank to ensure the repayment left your account and the relevant agency received it.

He suggested anyone who repaid benefits before the new year check for errors as soon as the T-slip arrives, rather than leaving it until closer to the tax-filing deadline to catch a miscalculation. That way, Rajaratnam said, there will be time to get a corrected tax slip.

“I wouldn’t suggest anybody to file your tax return without having that (amended T4A slip),” Rajaratnam said.

Rajaratnam said that he’s hopeful the CRA will provide detailed guidance on this issue before the end of April, so people know when to expect their corrected tax slips.

If for some reason, someone notices the error right before the tax-filing deadline and cannot get through to the CRA, Rajaratnam said there is a last resort: Putting the correct amount on the tax filing and including a letter to the CRA explaining why the T4A doesn’t match the tax filing.

But Rajaratnam stressed that it is best not to wait, since the CRA has not yet said if it will offer extensions to deal with these issues.

“This has been a very fluid situation with all their the wage subsidies and CERB benefits,” Rajaratnam said. “I think the CRA is, similar to all other governments, trying to do the best they can.”

The CRA could also be clearer in its instructions and on its website, Thomson says, noting that Reddit message boards on CERB and Employment Insurance are filled with similar anecdotes.

“I know I’m not the only one who’s had this issue, and it’s scary getting a big government letter in the mail,” Thomson said.

“I don’t think I should have to pay taxes on this. Hopefully I can get through to someone to get this fixed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.

taxes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, says the municipality’s fire halls have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (File photo)
Dry weather, wind leads to more brushfires this spring in North Cowichan

‘Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.’

This Earth Day, Cowichan Valley residents are being asked to clean up where they are. (File photo)
Cowichan ‘Clean Where You Are’ campaign starts on Earth Day

Take a bag, one glove, long tongs, and go pick up!

City of Duncan considering an average 3.51 per cent tax increase for 2021. (File photo)
Duncan considers average 3.51% tax increase for 2021

Homeowners would see a $43 increase over last year

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read