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The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was introduced to provide financial support to employed and self-employed Canadians that were directly affected by COVID-19. The CERB helped over 8.9 million people pay their bills and support their families.

As part of the eligibility criteria for this benefit, individuals must have earned a minimum of $5,000 in 2019 or in the last 12 months.

When it comes to the calculation of the $5000 income for self-employed individuals, $5000 in self-employment income is net pre-tax income, which is consistent with CRA’s approach to the calculation of self-employment income.


The CRA began sending letters to CERB recipients for whom they could not validate the $5,000 minimum income threshold. As the CRA only has access to 2019 tax filings at this point, they are unable to verify an individual’s eligibility if they met the criteria based on the previous 12 months or if they have yet to file their 2019 taxes.


  • To encourage those who know that they did not qualify for the CERB to repay what they received prior to December 31st, 2020. This will ensure that there is no impact on tax slips or benefit calculations based on CERB payments they should not have received. Failure to do this will not result in penalties or interest accrual.
  • To encourage individuals for whom the CRA could not verify eligibility to work with the CRA to do so if they are, in fact, eligible.


CERB recipients who do not meet this eligibility criteria will need to repay CERB payments received and those who made an honest mistake in their application will not be penalized.

The CRA is aware of the difficult realities of this time, and will work with recipients who have to pay back the CERB to set up repayment plans that give them time and flexibility based on their ability to pay.

If you are concerned about your eligibility, more information can be found here: Canada Revenue Agency Website


If you have questions, concerns, or need further help demonstrating your CERB eligibility, please reach out to my office at 604-666-0135 or email us at