Everything We Know
PLEASE REFER TO THE OFFICIAL “Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan” – https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html
This website gives a very comprehensive summary, and we will not repeat information that’s in it. However, we’re providing commentary and advice below.
The government has stepped up… but this is policy-making on the fly! We’ve had several big changes mid-stream (eg. the new benefits available; the wage subsidy available) – but we hope this is now a fairly stable package.
Please also note that the details of many of these things are still being rolled out.
Also…. If you don’t have a perfect record with the government or CRA (hey, it happens) – don’t worry – that will not be held against you. And there will be no new audits or collection action for a while.
SUPPORT FOR INDIVIDUALS
The government’s laid out a path to the key support available to individuals:
- First, your employer may be able to hire you back – the government is encouraging this.
- If that’s the case, the government will cover up to 75% of your salary (to a maximum salary of $58k a year) as a subsidy direct from the government (max payment $847 / week). Depending on ability to pay, your employer is encouraged to top this back up to 100% of your previous wage.
- We assume that most employers will try to hire their workers back under this scheme, even if not able to bring them into work for safety reasons.
- We don’t know the details of how this works yet – including some very important things, such as whether the government will send the money to the employer or directly to the employee. We will update you as soon as we do.
- Not all businesses will qualify for this subsidy (see below). If that’s the case, your employer may not be able to hire you back. If your employer can’t hire you back, there are two options:
- You may be laid off and asked to apply for EI.
- You may be put on unpaid leave, and asked to apply for the new Canadian Economic Response Benefit (CERB) – see details on the government website, and the notes below.
- If you’re not an employee (for example, you’re a self-employed freelancer), or are a business owner, you may not be eligible for the wage subsidy, or able to apply for EI. Those individuals should be eligible for the CERB.
Important things to know about the CERB and EI:
- If you’re on EI, you can apply for CERB once your EI runs out (assuming still in this crisis). You can’t claim both at the same time.
- It’s unclear whether or not you’ll receive more money under EI or CERB. The basic calculation for EI benefits is 55% of your former income. In 2020, that caps out at $573 a week (for $54,200 salary). That number is broadly in line with the $2,000 monthly CERB amount. So…. rough rule of thumb…. Lower earners should probably apply for CERB; $50k and up are roughly neutral.
- You won’t be able to apply for CERB until early April, as the government is still building the system. See the detail on the government website (and comments on the info you’ll need, below). CERB money will likely not flow until mid/late April. EI may be faster.
- Be aware – the interaction between EI and CERB is not yet clear. It’s unclear if those receiving EI will be automatically transferred over to CERB once CERB is up and running. We understand that data provided to EI will be “ported” over if appropriate.
- Everybody who knows how to use technology, should set up “My Account” with CRA online as soon as possible. It will likely be the way in which you access some of these benefits. See https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals/about-account.html and scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll need some info from your 2018 tax return – see below. You need to sign up individually- we can’t do it for you.
- You can likely get a deferral on your mortgage, car payments, etc – but you need to contact your lender and ask. If you’re a tenant…. The Ontario government has banned any evictions for the duration.
- If you need to claim EI or CERB, consider how long you think you may be off for – and how quickly you need the money, as well as how much you made before. That may affect your decision of which to claim.
- The government’s extended the April 30 tax filing deadline to June 1 – but we strongly suggest you try to file your tax return on time, or at least get us your tax material ASAP:
- (a) filing your return is how you access some of the new benefits (eg. extra GST payment)
- (b) it gets any refund to you faster
- (c) your service team at H&Co would be very grateful – we’re working virtually, but this will help us handle your return as quickly as possible, without compromising quality of service.
- If you do owe taxes, you have until September 1 to pay.
- See LINK on how to get us your personal tax information without physical risk.
Our request to you:
- When you contact the government to apply for some of these items, you will need some information from your 2018 tax return or Notice of Assessment.
- If we filed that return for you, we can likely provide that information – but please be aware that it might take us 48 hours to get it to you (we’re getting lots of requests)…
- So we do ask you to try to find that Notice before you call us!
SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES
- Press Release March 27, 2020 regarding small business announcement: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/03/27/prime-minister-announces-support-small-businesses-facing-impacts
- Additional supports: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/additional-support-for-canadian-businesses-from-the-economic-impact-of-covid-19.html
About my people (and me)
Your most pressing question is likely: What do I tell my employees? And do I lay them off? Here are your options:
- If you can and you want to, you can keep them on active payroll – but take advantage of the 75% wage subsidy that’s being rolled out. The government is encouraging this, and asking employers to hire back laid-off workers.
- Not all businesses are going to qualify for the subsidy – you have to be able to demonstrate at least a 30% reduction in your revenue to qualify. For many people, that won’t be an issue.
- The government is going to top up to 75%, to a maximum of $847 a week – that equates to 75% of a $58k full-time salary. The employer is not required to contribute (ie. to top this up to 100%), but the government is encouraging you to do this.
- It’s not automatic – you will need to apply, and provide evidence of COVID-related impact on sales.
- We’re still not sure how the logistics of this will work – or if it will apply to unincorporated businesses. We don’t yet know what evidence will be requested. There will be anti-abuse provisions put in place.
- More details to be announced ASAP – we will update you as soon as they become available. The PM indicated Minister Morneau would be releasing details in the next few days.
- If your business is not eligible for the wage subsidy, and you can’t keep your employees on, then they will need to file for benefits. We suggest you file ROEs and provide to your employee – it’s their decision what they want to claim, but need the ROE if claiming EI.
- If you have contractors, they’re not eligible for the wage subsidy or EI – and you may not be, either, as the business owner. In which case, the CERB applies. See above.
Other financial worries – what help is available? (see “Access to Credit”)
- New Canada Emergency Business Account (loan up to $40k, guaranteed by the government, interest free for up to 12m)
- Note that this is only available for organizations that have paid between $50k and $1m in payroll in 2019.
- Up to $10k of the loan may be forgiven – we don’t know the criteria yet.
- More details to follow as we know them. We believe you access this through your existing bank or credit union.
- Other access to credit – ask your bank or credit union. The government is working with them behind the scenes to open the taps.
- This will likely include delaying principal repayments on loans – you may still need to cover the interest. You need to ask.
- Also access to new or enhanced credit facilities.
- Delayed payment of government taxes
- All corporate income taxes (ie. those payable when you file your annual corporate tax return) may be deferred to September 1.
- All HST and duty payments may be deferred to June 30 – but see the website for the exact details, it varies by the filing period.
- Payroll remittances must still be paid on time (to the extent that you owe them)
- You’re strongly encouraged still to file your return on time. Even if not yet paying. It’s unclear whether or not late filing penalties will be waived.
- Decide if you can apply for the wage subsidy.
- This may be a no-brainer, but it may be a bit more complicated to work out if you qualify (eg. you have several business lines and only one is really affected). Call us if you’re in doubt.
- If you think you’re eligible, we (and the government) encourage you to rehire your employees and apply for the wage subsidy.
- If so, decide if you are in a position to top up your employee’s wages at all. We do caution that the key goal is to make sure there is still a business to ramp up again afterwards. It may be “the right thing to do”, but please don’t do this if it may threaten your long-term viability.
- Talk to contractors and advise them about the CERB. Think about it for yourself, if you’re not an employee of your own company ie the business owner.
- If you can’t rehire or keep on employees, give them their ROE. It’s up to them which benefit they claim (see comments above).
- The government has implied they’re not going to get into rental agreements between tenants and landlords – but it can’t hurt to call your landlord and ask.
- Call any lenders you work with, and explore what options they can give you.
- Take advantage of the tax deferrals the government is offering. But we recommend you send payroll remittances.
Press Release from March 25, 2020 from government: