COVID-19 FINANCIAL RELIEF FOR CANADIANS
Since the beginning of March, restrictions and measures related to COVID-19 have rapidly escalated. On March 18, 2020, the Government of Canada announced a series of measures designed to support the finances of individuals, businesses, charities and non-profit organizations. Since then, on an almost daily basis, new possibilities have been introduced, and old ones have been adjusted. This document aims to provide a consolidated summary of support in their most current state of affairs, as of April 8, 2020. (and a few updates to April 23, 2020) Since this time, there have been so many updates and changes (often daily) for which we are now posting on our social media pages so for more up-to-date information, please check there.
As Canada struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has implemented a number of measures to assist businesses improve their cash flow such that they can survive over the coming months. They can be sorted into three primary categories: payroll support, financing, and deferrals of tax payments. While sole proprietors are eligible for many of these measures, some additional measures will be discussed in the section of this newsletter for Individuals.
On March 27, 2020, details of the Business Credit Availability Program were announced. It provides support through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC). Both organizations will work with private lenders to extend credit for businesses. In many cases, financial institutions will reach out to their clients with details and the specific application process. In general, three programs are available:
- Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) – this provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and not-for-profits to help cover operating costs during a period where revenues have been temporarily reduced. To qualify, organizations will need to demonstrate they paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. 25% of the loan will be forgiven where the loan is repaid by December 31, 2022. Applications through the borrower’s financial institution should be available on April 9, 2020.
At the time of publication and to our knowledge, these banks and credit unions were accepting applications online.
- Loan Guarantee For Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises – EDC is working with financial institutions to issue new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25 million to small and medium enterprises.
- Co-Lending Program For Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises – BDC is working with financial institutions to co-lend term loans to small and medium enterprises for their operational cash flow requirements. Eligible businesses may obtain incremental credit amounts of up to $6.25 million through the program.
Interested businesses should work with their current financial institutions.
There are generally three payroll programs available: the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy (10% WS), the 75% Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (75% WS), and the Employment Insurance (EI) Work-sharing Program. In general, the 75% WS isavailable to a wide variety of entities whose revenue has dropped by at least 30%. The 10% WS is available only to smaller businesses, but does not require a revenue decline. In cases where employers are entitled to both, amounts received under the10% WS will reduce the amounts receivable under the 75% WS.
The EI Work-Sharing Program is different in that it enables the employees and employer to agree to reduce working hours by 10% to 60%. This reduces the employer’s payroll costs, while the employees receive EI payments directly for the reduction in their hours. While the Work-Sharing Program can be used in combination with a subsidy, the government has specifically noted that receipts under the 75% subsidy will be eroded by the EI received by the employee. The legislation implementing the 10% subsidy does not provide for any similar reduction.
10% Temporary Wage Subsidy (10% WS)
A business may benefit immediately from a 10% subsidy by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld from their employees’ remuneration.
In order to be eligible, the employer must meet three criteria:
- employ one or more individuals in Canada (“eligible employees”);
- was registered, with a business number and a payroll remittance account, on March 18, 2020;
- and be any of the following:
- most Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs), based on eligibility for the small business deduction (see below);
- an individual (other than a trust);
- a partnership, all members of which are entities described in (i), (ii), (iii) or (v);
- a non-profit organization (exempt from income tax); or
- a registered charity.
To be eligible, a CCPC must have had a business limit, for purposes of the small business deduction greater than nil for its most recent tax year ended prior to March 18, 2020 (or, if it had no taxation year ended before that date, would have had a business limit greater than nil if its taxation year ended on March 17, 2020).
For this purpose, the reduction to the business limit caused by the passive income grind (which commences when passive income exceeds $50,000) is not considered. However, a CCPC which had no business limit for other reasons would not qualify for the subsidy. (For example, its taxable capital, in combination with other associated corporations, exceeded $15 million; it was a member of an associated group of corporations and was not assigned any portion of the business limit; or it assigned its entire business limit to one or more other CCPCs under the specified corporate income rules.)
A portion of remuneration (e.g. wages, salaries) paid to employees from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, inclusive, will be recoverable by the employer. The legislation affords the government the ability to change several amounts that determine the availability of the subsidy. Items in italics/bold are amounts that have been announced to date.
The subsidy will be equal to the least of three amounts, as follows:
- a fixed maximum for each employer of $25,000. CRA has indicated that this amount is per employer and is not required to be shared between related or associated employers;
- a fixed percentage, being 10% of remuneration paid to eligible employees during the period from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020; or
- the number of eligible employees employed during the period from March 18, 2020 to June 19, 2020, multiplied by a fixed amount, $1,375.
Therefore, to get the maximum benefit of $25,000, the employer must have more than 18 employees with total wages no less than $250,000 during the period.
There is no formal application process. Source deduction remittances for income tax, but not for CPP or EI, can be reduced for the available subsidy, providing an immediate cash flow benefit to the employer. Presumably, there will be an eventual requirement to account for the subsidy claimed, possibly when T4 slips are prepared and filed in early 2021.
The legislation does not prevent salaries to the owners (or related persons) from being eligible for the subsidy. Note, however, that a proprietor or partner is not an employee of their unincorporated business, so no subsidy would be available for their work.
75% Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (75% WS)
On March 27, 2020 the government announced a 75% wage subsidy program for eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020. Unlike the 10% WS, the 75% WS is not limited to smaller businesses. However, a significant reduction of revenue is generally required to be eligible. The 75% WS also differs from the 10% WS in that it will be paid in cash to the employer.
Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations (large and small), partnerships consisting of eligible employers, as well as non-profit organizations and registered charities. Unlike the 10% WS, individuals were not noted as “other than trusts”, however it was not specifically stated that trusts would qualify, leaving the eligibility of trusts which have employees uncertain. Public bodies would not be eligible (including municipalities and local governments, crown corporations, public universities, colleges, schools and hospitals).
30% Revenue Decrease
This subsidy would be available to eligible employers that see a drop of at least 30% of their revenue. However, only a 15% drop is required in respect of March as only some sales during that month were generally affected. The employer will be required to formally attest that the required decline in revenue occurred. An employer’s revenue for this purpose would be its revenue from its business carried on in Canada earned from arm’s-length sources. Revenue would be measured either on the basis of accrual accounting (as they are earned) or cash accounting (as they are received), but the selected method would be required to be used for the entire duration of the program.
The taxpayer would have two options for comparing revenues. Option 1 is to compare the 2019 to 2020 revenue for the calendar month in which the period began. Option 2 is to compare the applicable month’s revenue to the average revenue earned in January and February 2020. The selected method would be required to be used for the entire duration of the program. The wage subsidy received by the employer in a given month would not be considered revenue for purposes of these calculations.
Non-profit entities and charities will have the option to include or exclude government funding in calculating revenue, but again, the selected method must be used for all applicable months.
The table below outlines each claim period and the month for which a decline in revenue would be required:
The subsidy for most employees on eligible remuneration paid between March 15 and June 6, 2020 would be the greater of:
- 75% of remuneration paid, up to a maximum of $847 per week; and
- the full remuneration paid, up to a maximum of $847 per week or 75% of the employee’s pre-crisis weekly remuneration, whichever is less.
“Pre-crisis remuneration” will be the average weekly remuneration paid to the employee between January 1 and March 15, excluding any seven-day periods in respect of which the employee received no remuneration (so if an employee was hired on February 1, the lack of any remuneration in January would not reduce their pre-crisis remuneration).
In effect, employers may be eligible for a subsidy equal to 75% of the employee’s pre-crisis wages or salaries, to a maximum of $847 per week, provided the employee is paid at least that amount during the subsidy period. Employers would be expected to make “best efforts” to maintain existing employees’ pre-crisis employment earnings, however the documents acknowledge that some employers will be unable to top wages up to pre-crisis levels.
Eligible remuneration may include salary, wages, taxable benefits and other remuneration for which employers would generally be required to withhold or deduct amounts. However, it does not include severance pay, or items such as stock option benefits or the personal use of a corporate vehicle.
There will be no overall limit on the subsidy amount that an eligible employer may claim.
For new employees, the subsidy will be 75% of salaries and wages paid, not exceeding $847 per week.
Business Owners & Their Family
The subsidy amount for these and other non-arm’s length employees will be limited to the eligible remuneration paid up to a maximum benefit of $847 per week or 75% of the employee’s pre-crisis weekly remuneration.
In other words, if there was no pre-crisis weekly remuneration, no 75% WS would be available for these employees, regardless of whether wages were paid after March 15, 2020.
Application will be available through CRA’s My Business Account portal as well as a web-based application. CRA recommends that businesses that haven’t already registered for My Business Account should do so as soon as possible. Employers would have to keep records demonstrating their reduction in arm’s-length revenues and remuneration paid to employees.
On April 8, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that they are aiming to get the program ready within 3 weeks. The original target was 3-6 weeks from the April 1, 2020 announcement date.
On April 21, 2020, CRA published additional information including an online calculator to help determine your subsidy amount. The online portal is set to go live on April 27, 2020.
CPP & EI
Employers eligible for the 75% WS will be entitled to receive a 100% refund for certain employer-paid contributions to EI and CPP. This refund would recover the entire amount of employer-paid contributions in respect of remuneration paid to furloughed employees (no work whatsoever is done in the relevant week) in a period where the employer is eligible for the 75% WS in respect of that employee.
This refund would not be subject to the weekly maximum benefit per employee of $847. There would be no overall limit on the refund amount that an eligible employer may claim.
Repayments & Penalties
Repayments will be required where the employer does not meet the eligibility requirements and pay their employees accordingly. In addition, anti-abuse rules will be proposed to ensure that the subsidy is not inappropriately obtained and that employees are paid the amounts they are owed. Penalties may apply in cases of abusive or fraudulent claims. The government is considering the creation of new offences that will apply to individuals, employers or business administrators who provide false or misleading information to obtain access to this benefit or who misuse any funds obtained under the program. These more severe penalties may include fines or even imprisonment.
Interaction With The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy
For employers that are eligible for both the 75% WS and 10% WS for a period, any benefit from the 10% WS would generally reduce the amount available to be claimed under the 75% WS in that same period. Therefore, reducing income tax withholdings on employee payroll remittances will allow businesses to benefit from a portion of the 75% WS earlier.
Interaction With The Canada Emergency Response Benefit
The Government has indicated that the 75% WS is not intended to be available for periods when the employee has also collected the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Adjustments to how these programs interact are being considered to encourage recently laid off workers to be re-hired.
Interaction With The Work-Sharing Program
For employers and employees that are participating in a Work-Sharing Program, EI benefits received by employees through the program will reduce the 75% WS that their employer is entitled to receive.
Employment Insurance Work-Sharing Program
The Work-Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours (from a 10% to 60% reduction) as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, is not a new program. However, it has been broadened as a consequence of COVID-19.
In general, the employer must have experienced a recent decline in business activity of at least 10% to be eligible for the program, which means that many businesses who are experiencing a downturn due to COVID-19 should be eligible. Effective March 15, 2020, the maximum duration of such agreements was extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks, eligibility requirements were eased, and the application process has been streamlined.
Employers and employees must agree to participate in work-sharing and apply together. The employer must:
- be a year-round business in Canada in operation for at least 1 year;
- be a private business or a publicly held company; and
- have at least 2 employees in the work-sharing unit.
Also note that eligibility was further extended to Government Business Enterprises and not-for-profit employers experiencing a shortage of work due to a reduction of business activity and/or a reduction in revenue levels due to COVID-19.
- be year-round, permanent, full-time or part-time employees needed to carry out the day-to-day functions of the business ("core staff");
- be eligible to receive EI benefits; and
- agree to reduce their normal working hours by the same percentage and to share the available work.
Employee eligibility was also extended to employees considered essential to the recovery and viability of the business, which would include, for example:
- technical employees engaged in product development;
- outside sales agents; and
- marketing agents.
The employer pays the wages to employees for the hours they worked, as per normal, and then notifies the government through a utilization report of the work hours that employees missed. The employees are paid directly from EI for the percentage of their benefit rate that corresponds with the percentage of the work hours they missed.
For example, if the employee missed 50% of their normal weekly hours due to work-sharing, they would receive 50% of their benefit rate from EI. Their benefit rate will not be equivalent to their normal wages, as it is generally 55% of their average weekly earnings to a maximum of $573 per week (for 2020).
Also, the employer must maintain all existing employee benefits.
A simplified process and set of forms have been introduced. Employers must complete these forms:
Previously, a recovery plan was required, however, it was replaced by a single line of text within the application. Also, the requirement that the application be submitted at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the program has been eliminated.
Finally, weekly utilization reports must be submitted to ensure the appropriate EI benefits are calculated and paid.
Check out the link for full details on the program and application process.
Each of these programs assists employers to keep employees. This can be very useful in facilitating a quick restart or gearing-up of the business. Factors to consider when determining which program should be used, if any:
- the need to have staff ready when the business is ready to re-start or gear-up;
- the magnitude of revenue decline;
- whether the business will be permanently closed;
- the programs for which the employer is eligible;
- whether there is any work available for the employee to do;
- how much payroll needs to be reduced;
- employment agreement conditions, restrictions, and costs of termination; and
- taff and client morale.
In some situations, even the support provided may not be sufficient to avoid partial or complete layoffs. In such cases, terminated employees may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, discussed in the next section. Note that employees can be retained with no working hours and still be eligible for this benefit. This would afford an additional option for maintaining workers to be re-activated when the economy recovers.
DEFERRAL OF TAX PAYMENT & FILINGS
Income Tax (Corporate)
Deadlines for payment of corporate income tax payable under Part I of the Income Tax Act that become due on or after March 18, 2020 (also including instalments) and before September 2020 are deferred to September 1, 2020. No interest will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
Taxpayers may defer a number of other administrative tax actions required under the Income Tax Act that are due after March 18, 2020, until June 1, 2020. These include filing of income tax returns, forms, elections, designations, and responses to information requests. This includes corporate income tax returns.
Payroll And Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED)
Payroll deductions and all related activities must continue to be done on time. As well, the extension does not apply to SR&ED prescribed forms and investment tax credits including the apprenticeship job creation tax credit. These claims cannot be accepted if they are submitted later than 12 months after the due date of the related income tax return. CRA has no discretion in this regard.
A GST/HST remittance deferral is offered which would extend until June 30, 2020 the time for:
- monthly filers to remit amounts collected for the February, March and April 2020 reporting periods;
- quarterly filers to remit amounts collected for the January 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 reporting period; and
- annual filers, whose GST/HST return or instalment are due in March, April or May 2020, to remit amounts collected and owing for their previous fiscal year and instalments of GST/HST in respect of the filer’s current fiscal year.
In other words, any GST/HST which would otherwise become payable at the end of March, April or May will instead be payable by June 30, 2020.
Finally, in respect of customs duty and sales tax for importers, the payment deadlines for statements of accounts for March, April, and May are being deferred to June 30, 2020.
A number of measures have been offered to individuals based on the number of individuals in their family, employment/business status, and income levels. These can be divided into the following categories: one-time payments, tax deferrals, employment insurance sickness benefits, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and other supports.
Special GST Credit Payment
A one-time special payment through the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GSTC) was to be made on April 9, 2020. This will double the maximum annual GSTC and result in an average payment for those benefitting by close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. Some individuals or families whose “adjusted income” was too high to qualify for any quarterly GSTC payments will be eligible for this one-time payment. No application was required to receive the benefit.
Special Canada Child Benefit (CCB) Payment
An additional Canada Child Benefit payment amount of $300 per child will be added to the May 2020 benefit cheque. Some families with children under age 18 who do not receive monthly benefits will be eligible for a one-time benefit in May.
Payment deadlines for income tax amounts that become due on or after March 18, 2020 and before September 2020 are deferred to September 1, 2020. This includes the June 15, 2020 instalment. No interest will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (EI) SICKNESS BENEFIT
EI sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine. The government has enhanced access to this benefit by:
- waiving the one-week waiting period for new claimants who are quarantined that claim EI sickness benefits, effective March 15, 2020; and
- waiving the requirement to provide a medical certificate.
Note that sickness and regular EI benefits will be rolled into the Canada Emergency Response Benefit discussed below.
CANADA EMERGENCY RESPONCE BENEFIT (CERB)
The CERB will provide a taxable benefit for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but are not eligible for traditional EI. It will also cover sickness and regular EI claims made for periods commencing on or after March 15, 2020.
These income support payments can be made for a maximum of 16 weeks. $2,000 would be provided per 4-week period. The first 4-week period goes from March 15 to April 11, 2020. The CERB is taxable although tax will not be deducted at source. It must be reported as income for the 2020 tax year. CRA has indicated an information slip will be issued.
To receive the CERB, the applicant must be an “eligible worker”, meaning they must:
- be at least 15 years of age;
- be resident in Canada;
- have stopped working because of COVID-19 or be eligible for EI regular or sickness benefits;
- be or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the four-week period; and
- for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day on which they make an application, have had a total income of at least $5,000 from:
- certain EI benefits (maternity and parental benefits); and
- allowances, money or other benefits paid to the person under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the person of one or more of their new-born children or one or more children placed with them for the purpose of adoption.
On April 6, 2020, the date applications for the CERB commenced, the government announced that non-eligible dividends would also count towards the $5,000 prior income eligibility requirement. Therefore, owner-managers or their family members compensated only by non-eligible dividends may be eligible for the CERB provided that the other requirements are met. Further, the minimum $5,000 income does not have to be earned in Canada, but the taxpayer needs to reside in Canada.
The worker, whether employed or self-employed, must cease to work for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period (required to commence on a Sunday) in respect of which they apply for the payment. Specific examples of people who would be eligible were:
- workers who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
- workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
- working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures;
- workers who are still employed but are not being paid because there is curren