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Do you have to Pay Back CRB Payments?

Written by Jessica Steer
In 2020, like many other Canadians, you may have received Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) payments. These payments were given as income support to those who applied for it due to losing their jobs or being unable to work due to COVID-19. For many Canadians, this was how they paid their bills while we learned what COVID-19 was and what the new normal would be. Now that the benefits have ended, many are wondering if they will have to pay the CRA money back. Well, this answer is different for everyone. If you have to pay money back and how much depends on if you were overpaid or didn’t qualify and still received money.
Table of Contents

    What is CRB and how do you apply?

    The CRB, also known as the Canada Recovery Benefit, provided support for those who were directly affected by COVID-19 and weren’t able to be approved for Employment Insurance (EI). This benefit is now closed, but it was available from September 27, 2020 to October 23, 2021. The last day to apply to receive any payments was December 22, 2021. With this benefit you could receive either $1000 or $600 every two weeks. The actual amount directly deposited into recipients bank accounts was slightly lower since taxes were held.

    In order to get the CRB, you had to meet the eligibility criteria of :

    • Being at least 15 years of age
    • Being unemployed or had a 50% reduction in wages due to COVID-19
    • Not applying for or receive any other COVID-19 related benefits
    • Living in Canada
    • Making at least $5000 in taxable income in either 2019, 2020 or 12 months before applying
    • Actively looking for work
    • Not self isolating because of travel reasons
    • Filing your 2019 or 2020 tax return

    Other Pandemic Benefits

    There were other benefits, just like CRB, that helped those who were financially struggling during the pandemic. Depending on why you need to receive benefits and when you applied would dictate what benefits you received.

    1. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) allowed those who normally received employment income or self-employment income to get $2000 a month while their financial situation was affected by COVID.
    2. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit allowed those who were unable to work because of sickness due to COVID, had to be isolated or were immunocompromised to receive $500 per week for up to six weeks. It was available from September 27, 2020 to May 7, 2022. The last day to apply was July 6, 2022.
    3. The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit was available from the same time period as the sickness benefit. It allowed those who couldn’t work due to having to look after a child 12 years or younger, or a family member. Someone who needed supervised care. It paid $500 per week for up to 44 weeks.
    4. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) allowed those who just recently graduated from high school or a post secondary institution, or still in a post secondary institution, to get $1,250 per month. You could get $2000 if you had a disability or dependents. It was available from May to August of 2020.

    All of these different benefits are just variations of the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), that helped those to get by during the pandemic. Because the government was trying to get people their money as soon as they could, many people received money that they shouldn't have. Because of this, you may be requested to pay some of it or all of it back for any of these benefits.

    CRB and Who Has to Pay it Back

    The Canada Recovery Benefit does have an income limit. If your total taxable income was more than $38,000 on your tax return the year you received the benefit, you will be required to reimburse 50% of every dollar of net income that you received over the $38,000. For example, if you received $45,000 the amount above $38,000 is $7000 so you would then be required to pay back $3500. This is referred to as social benefits repayment.

    Keep in mind when you are doing your tax returns that the CRB is also considered income, as well as your regular income. Your Notice of Assessment (NOA) will have a line that shows you based on your return how much CRB you were entitled to receive which will also help you to break down the amount that you owe.

    Another reason you may have to pay back your CRB payments is that you didn’t meet the minimum income requirement of $5000. Even if you did meet the income requirement and didn’t file your tax return, that could also result in you having to pay the full amount back. Filing your taxes as soon as you can is one way to help you resolve this situation. You can file these yourself or go through a tax professional to help you make sure that you have filed correctly to avoid any more delays. Not making these payments can greatly affect you so it is important to make sure that you make a repayment plan or talk to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and find out your options.

    CERB and Who Has to Pay it Back

    The CRB isn’t the only government benefit that is required to be paid back. There are many Canadians that either received too much, made over the threshold or weren’t actually eligible to receive benefits. The CERB is also one that many Canadians are required to pay back full or partial amounts. There are a few different reasons for this. There are two scenarios that are the most common.

    The first is that they were overpaid. When the benefit first started, the federal government sent many of those who applied a $2000 payment to avoid any delays and then continued payments biweekly after that. Because of this many Canadians received an extra $2000 that is now required to be paid back.

    The second is that they weren’t actually approved. The government did not screen applications because they were trying to get people their money without any delays. Because of this there were some people who were deemed ineligible after the fact. That money is also required to be paid back.

    Paying these Benefits Back

    Whether you received extra payments or weren’t eligible, you will be required to pay the money back. You can pay the amount in full if you can afford it, otherwise you can come up with a payment plan. As long as you contact the CRA, they can work with you to come up with an affordable payment plan that won’t incur you any interest.

    Until your debt is paid in full, the CRA will be able to keep any benefits that you may have received, such as:

    • Tax refunds
    • Tax credits
    • HST/GST benefits
    • Portion of EI benefits

    This also applies to many other government benefits.

    If you don’t pay the money back, you could end up facing legal or financial consequences so it is better to pay it off as soon as you can.

    Benefit Payment Due Dates

    The only due dates for payments are those that are due to too much income when filing your taxes. You would have or will receive a tax bill for the amount owing. Unlike other benefits, you would make this payment when you pay income tax, which is usually due April 30 every year. If you file your tax return early, then you have plenty of time to make arrangements or pay your bill in full to avoid any tax consequences.

    At this point, there are no specific dates as to when the payments have to be made for the benefits that were not required to be paid back with your taxes. If you do owe money, you will have likely received a notice in the mail stating how much money you owe and if there is a specific due date for your amount.

    Even though you may not be incurring interest charges as of yet, if you are supposed to be receiving any money from the government, it may be kept to start paying off your debt. The best way to deal with this is to contact the CRA directly. They can set up payments that will automatically be taken from your bank account. The amount taken will be an agreed upon amount. If your financial situation changes and you want to change the amounts, all you need to do is contact the CRA again.


    If you received either CRB or CERB in 2020 or 2022, you may be just finding out that you are required to pay some if not all of the money back. There are a few different reasons why this may be the case. That being said, you do have time in order to make these payments. If making the payment in full doesn’t work for you, you are able to make a payment arrangement or discuss any concerns that you may have with the CRA.

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