CERB recipients should 'try not to get too scared' at tax time, accountant says
OTTAWA -- With tax season just around the corner, a reminder for anyone who collected the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in 2020, the federal government's program to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic wasn't tax free.
Financial experts recommend that if you have not set money aside for taxes after receiving the CERB, you probably should now.
Lauren Wilson works in a daycare, which closed during the province-wide lockdown last spring. With bills to pay, she turned to CERB for three months.
"It was challenging in terms of creating a budget, and just making sure that we could afford some of the losses that we were taking off of my paycheque; but, we were actually in a pretty good spot with the CERB," said Wilson.
The CERB benefit paid eligible applicants $500 per week, for up to 28 weeks, but that money didn’t have any income tax deducted.
"There’s no such thing as free money," says Wilson.
In an email to CTV News Ottawa, Canada Revenue Agency says, “Since the launch of these benefits, the Government of Canada has been clear that these benefits are taxable. The benefit application pages also clearly stated that the benefits were taxable."
Wilson was able to put a little bit of money aside, thanks in part to the advice she received from her mom, Krissie Wilson - who is also an accountant.
"Everything is considered as part of your taxes; and so, when she got the CERB; and we’ve had money conversations over the years, and she called me and said, ‘mom, I’m going to need some of this money for taxes.' and said, yes - yes you are," said Krissie Wilson.
The federal government says that they have started to mail out T4A slips to CERB recipients, "T4As will be sent out in waves and should be received by Mar. 10, 2021"
Wilson notes not everyone was able to save money.
"It was really hard for her to put aside the CERB; because the CERB didn’t quite cover the income that she lost while she was off work; and, I recognize that a lot of people are in that situation; getting the CERB, you have to pay your rent, you have to pay your bills, and so you spend it all.”
With the tax deadline approaching at the end of April, if you didn’t or weren’t able to save, it’s not too late to start.
"Try not to get too scared at this point; try and do some planning if at all possible, between now and the end of April,” says Sandy Lyons of the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada.
Lyons says how much you will owe, really depends on your situation.
"Until we file a tax return, you really don’t necessarily know exactly the amount, because of what the deductions might be," said Lyons.
This is the year you may want to consult with a tax professional; and, it might not cost you as much as you think, says Lyons.
"There are tax clinics, where a person can get their tax return prepared, and assistance for a reasonable fee - if not for free, depending how low your income is."
Revenue Canada has a tool, which can help you find help to complete your return, and there are several groups in Ottawa that can help.
Revenue Canada also says, "If Canadians have questions about their T4A slip, including if they think there may be a mistake or have received it in error, they should contact the CRA by phone at 1-800-959-8281 or, for those outside of Canada and the US, at 1-613-940-8495."