Mr. Speaker, “offsets” are a standard procedure that the CRA uses to collect overdue balances from taxpayers. Offsetting involves proactively applying tax refunds and benefit payments, such as the GST/HST credit, to tax and other government debts. However, in May 2020, the CRA temporarily paused benefit offsets in an effort to provide relief to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since October 2022, the CRA has resumed its activities aimed at offsetting taxpayers' debt. When an individual has a government debt, that debt will be identified for them directly on any notice of assessment, determination or redetermination they receive from the CRA. These notifications were issued throughout the pandemic and individuals were able to access their amounts owing even while certain collections activities were paused.
The CRA has also begun to recover overpayments for the Canada child benefit, CCB. The first CCB payment impacted was the March 2023 payment. Unlike other benefits, the CCB payment can only be used to pay a CCB debt. Other kinds of child benefit payments can only be used to pay a debt from the same benefit.
If a recalculation shows that an individual was overpaid CCB, the CRA sends a notice of redetermination that includes a remittance voucher to inform the individual of the balance owing. The CRA may keep all or a portion of future CCB payments, income tax refunds, or goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax, GST/HST, credits until the balancing owing is repaid. If an individual receives any kind of payment from the CRA, the notification they receive will include both the payment amount and how that payment was applied to outstanding government debt.
As is the case with any income-tested benefit program, CCB entitlement may fluctuate from year to year depending on the amount of income assessed in a given tax year. Income is often comprised of a variety of sources, e.g., employment income, dividends, pension income, rental income, capital gains, etc. In addition to a change in income, CCB entitlement may increase or decrease for other reasons such as the age and number of children. Factoring in all of the above, the CRA cannot attribute a change in CCB entitlement to one particular source. For these reasons, the CRA is unable to offer a detailed response, as the data is not captured in the manner requested.