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Bill Morneau

Employers face stiff penalties for abuse of COVID-19 wage subsidies as Bill C-14 comes into force

Tuesday, April 14, 2020 @ 1:50 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

The Trudeau government’s second COVID-19 financial measures bill — which includes a 25 per cent administrative monetary penalty for employers who abuse the new Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for employees — is in force after passing Parliament with record speed.

In a rare Saturday sitting of Parliament April 11, Bill C-14 zoomed through all stages in both the House of Commons and the Senate and received royal assent the same day.

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No. 2 brings into force amendments to the Income Tax Act which create the CEWS (modified from what was first announced March 27, 2020) that provides a 75 per cent wage subsidy of the first $58,700 earned by employees (up to $847 per week, per employee) for up to 12 weeks, from March 15 to June 6.

Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations, partnerships consisting of eligible employers, non‑profit organizations and registered charities, but not public bodies.

Part 2 of the Act amends Part IV.‍1 of the Financial Administration Act to provide some provisions of that Act, as previously enacted by the first COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, no longer have effect the day after Sept. 30, 2020

Finance Minister Bill Morneau

“We will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure Canadians are supported through the outbreak, and that our economy remains resilient during these difficult times,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in an April 11 statement

The subsidy is available to eligible employers that see a drop of at least 15 per cent of their revenue in March 2020, and 30 percent for the following months. Eligible employers can apply for the CEWS through the Canada Revenue Agency's My Business Account portal, as well as via a web-based application (the government says more details will follow). Employers will be required to attest to the decline in their revenue.

They will also have to keep records demonstrating their reduction in arm’s-length revenues and on the remuneration paid to employees.

Under Bill C-14, employers that engage in artificial transactions to reduce their revenue for the purpose of claiming the CEWS will be subject to a penalty equal to 25 per cent of the value of the subsidy claimed, in addition to the requirement to repay in full the subsidy that was improperly claimed.

The government also points out that, under the existing provisions of the Income Tax Act, persons making, or participating in making, a false or deceptive statement could be prosecuted via a summary or indictable offence. Anyone found guilty could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The government has provided additional details on the CEWS available here, here and here.

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