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Overpayment letters

Overpayment letter appeal deadline

Please note that the deadline for overpayment letter appeals has been further extended to October 15, 2021.

This extension is for overpayment letters issued early in phase 2 of the program. So if your original overpayment letter had a deadline prior to September 15, your new deadline to appeal is October 15.

Overpayment letters and eligibility

Some recipients of the phase 1 benefit payment received overpayment letters near the launch of phase 2 indicating that they are not eligible for the program.

The first installment of the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant payment was promptly issued to applicants based on their attestations to the Program respecting their status, income, and expected COVID-related losses. However, unlike the first benefit payment, the second installment is based on Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax filing data, information that is used to validate information that was provided by applicants in their first applications.

A number of recipients of the first benefit payment had indicated on their first application that they were self-employed sharepersons. However, subsequent CRA tax filing data indicate that some of those recipients were wage-earning employees, and therefore not eligible for the program. Individuals in this situation were issued overpayment letters.

The Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant (FHBG) Program is intended to provide financial support to self-employed harvesters who are not eligible for other COVID-19 financial relief programs. Included among eligible individuals are sharepersons; that is, self-employed crew members who are paid a share of the catch, rather than crew members that are regular wage-earning employees. Under the terms of the program, wage-earning crew are not eligible to apply for the FHBG.

COVID-19 relief for wage-earning employees is better addressed through the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) rather than the FHBG, which fills the assistance gap faced by self-employed harvesters.

Overpayment letter options

Crew members who have received overpayment letters due to CRA tax filing data indicating that they are wage-earning employees rather than self-employed have two options available:

  1. should you wish to pursue the phase 2 benefit payment, you should work with your employer to have CRA tax data corrected to reflect self-employed fishing income to meet the terms and conditions of the FHBG Program, and appeal your overpayment letters by calling Service Canada; or
  2. repay the overpayment amount noted in your overpayment letter, and seek out the COVID-19 relief program appropriate for you.

Applicants who plan to correct their CRA income information should advise Service Canada and initiate an appeal as soon as possible by calling 1-833-674-8283. TTY: 1-800-465-7735.

Pursuing option 1

1. Correcting income information

Please note that you must provide the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with accurate and complete information.  If your income information as filed with the CRA is incorrect, you must have it updated for all years that are incorrect.

With respect to the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program, if you are a self-employed shareperson who has been incorrectly recorded as an employee, then you must correct that error.  This will require working with the employer to have amended T4s issued with information revised to reflect that you are not receiving employee wages.  For the purposes of the FHBG Program, the T4 amendments would have to cover the 2018 or 2019 tax year (depending on which one you used in your initial application) and 2020.

You will also have to adjust your own tax filing information with CRA to reflect that you are receiving self-employed fishing income.  Before CRA will be able to update your status, it will require the revised and up-to-date T4 information from the employer.  With complete information in hand CRA will review requests to adjust tax information and make its determinations.

It is important to note that CRA’s determination of employment status is based on the facts of the employment relationship as a whole; it is those facts that will dictate whether the worker is an employee or self-employed (see RC4110 Employee or self-employed for more information). Employment status directly affects a person's entitlement to employment insurance (EI) benefits under the Employment Insurance Act. It can also have an impact on how a worker is treated under other legislation such as the Canada Pension Plan and the Income Tax Act.

It is also important for fish harvesters to be are aware that any changes to tax information may have consequential impacts for income tax, Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance purposes.

2. Advising the Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program

Recognizing that reviewing requests for amendments to income tax filings can be complex and time consuming, it will nonetheless be possible for DFO to proceed with your appeal while CRA carries out its work.

If you are going to be seeking to correct your income tax information with CRA, you must provide DFO with the following information as part of your appeal:

  1. A letter/email to DFO stating that you have requested corrected T4 information from your employer indicating that you are not a wage-earning employee but rather a self-employed shareperson with self-employed fishing income,
  2. A copy of the letter/email to your employer demonstrating you have requested amended T4 information; and
  3. You must also ensure that the employer sends DFO a completed template indicating they will be filing corrected T4 information with CRA to reflect that you are not a wage-earning employee but rather a self-employed shareperson.

Guidance regarding letters and the template are linked below.

DFO will be able to take this information into account in adjudicating your overpayment appeal.  Should the Program confirm your eligibility, based on the information provided, your phase 1 benefit payment status will be adjusted as appropriate, and you will be able apply for the phase 2 component.

3. Reconciling FHBG Program results with CRA information

Recall that phase 2 of the FHBG Program is informed by CRA data in contrast to phase 1, which was attestation-based.

You should be aware that the FHBG Program will keep your file open while CRA carries out its review of your request to amend income information.

So, for example, in the event the FHBG Program accepts your appeal and confirms your eligibility for the benefit, you will receive payment as appropriate, but your file will be closed only when CRA completes its review. 

This means that, should CRA’s review subsequently conclude that your employment circumstances are not those of a self-employed harvester, the FHBG Program will defer to CRA’s finding.  In such circumstances, the FHBG Program will subsequently issue an overpayment letter for any payment you have received.

4. Guidance: letters and templates

Below you will find links to download the key documents for completion noted above in 2 a), b) and c).

Once completed, these materials may be emailed to:

Or sent via Canada Post or courier to:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fish Harvester Benefit and Grant Program (FHBGP-PPSP)
200 Kent Street
Station 13S030
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E6

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