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

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dancers, signholders show support for Fairy Creek in Victoria

A flash mob at the legislature and signs on an overpass

Wild Wise Sooke is urging the public to be bear aware. (Photo by Brian Rundle)
Wild Wise Sooke reminds public to be aware of bears

Residents asked to be mindful of their garbage habits, not to draw in wildlife

Staff celebrate the opening of the Vancouver Island Cancer Centre adjacent to Royal Jubilee Hospital in March 2001. (Photo provided by Provincial Health Services Authority)
Victoria cancer centre marks two decades of saving lives

BC Cancer – Victoria is B.C.’s second largest cancer centre

“Racing Classics” by John Horton depicts sailboats near Trial Island off the coast of Oak Bay. The painting will be featured in his <em>Maritime Impressions</em> exhibit at the Winchester Gallery until April 14.
Greater Victoria galleries beckon spring with vibrant, whimsical nature scenes

At The Galleries: look at what’s on display this month

Katie Hamilton is one of three Victoria residents receiving a $10,000 podcast production grant from Telus Storyhive. Her podcast, Her Love of Sport, will take listeners through stories from women in the sports industry. (Courtesy of Katie Hamilton)
Three local podcasts coming to Victoria following Telus Storyhive grants

Victoria podcasts chosen out of 700 applications to receive $10,000

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dancers, signholders show support for Fairy Creek in Victoria

A flash mob at the legislature and signs on an overpass

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read