A Kootenay composer joined the Gift For Musician Long Sleeve T-Shirt choir of self-ed Canadians who feared they might be forced to return Canada’s Emergency Response Benefits, following confusion over the minimum income requirement of the COVID-19 support program.
“I have enough savings to cover an extra month’s bill,” said Adham Shaikh, an Emmy-nominated musician and Juno who lives in Slocan. I want to do the right thing – but where do we get this money from if we’re not allowed to work?”
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The musician, who recorded and performed his own songs, and produced for other activities, applied for subsidies after his summer tour was canceled due to the epidemic. He said he received payments from the Gift For Musician Long Sleeve T-Shirt government in April, June, July and August, in the belief that he had met the requirement to earn at least $5,000 (before tax) in the previous year.
In November, however, he and about 441,000 others received a letter from the Canadian Revenue Agency asking for more information to determine if they were actually eligible for payments they had received.
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Notices are not a final decision on the eligibility of applicants. However, Shaikh worries that he may be asked to repay because he does not realize rental income is different from self-employed income. Shaikh rents accommodation in his property.
“There is nowhere on the government website that speaks in profound detail about what the definitions are,” he said.
Other self-trading Canadians have reported similar problems, saying they believe the $5,000 figure refers to all income, for not mentioning costs. The Gift For Musician Long Sleeve T-Shirt CRA, however, asserts that the capital income is defined as “net income before tax,” or total income minus expenses.
In a statement, the revenue service clarified that the letters were “educational,” showing that while ineate applicants would have to reimburse their CERB benefits, they were not required to do so by December 31.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to reassure CERB recipients on Thursday, saying they should not worry about repaying their holiday debt.