CEBA, the Canada Emergency Business Account, is a government-provided loan that was designed to provide financial support to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. A CEBA Loan was an interest-free loan of up to $60,000 with loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 for eligible CEBA borrowers.
According to the Canadian government, more than 898,000 businesses were approved for CEBA loans. Most will be able to repay their loans, some will not. What happens if you can’t repay your CEBA loan?
Loan Repayment and Forgiveness Terms
Under the program, CEBA loans are interest free until December 31, 2023 and no principal repayment is required before December 31, 2023.
Here is how CEBA loan forgiveness works:
If the loan is in good standing and the balance excluding any potential forgiveness amount is repaid by December 31, 2023, up to 33% is forgiven. The exact percentage of forgiveness depends on when you received the loan and how much you received. Applicants who received only the initial $40,000 CEBA loan are eligible for 25% forgiveness while those who received a further $20,000 expansion loan may receive 50% forgiveness on amounts borrowed above $40,000.
For loans outstanding past December 31, 2023, the interest rate is 5% per year. Only interest payments are required until maturity, with full principal due in a balloon payment on December 31, 2024.
The key to CEBA loan forgiveness is that your CEBA loan must be in good standing. If you cannot repay the required 75% of the principal balance under your CEBA loan by December 31, 2023:
- you lose any forgiveness eligibility.
- you must start paying interest at 5% on any amount remaining until the loan is repaid.
- the balance outstanding converts to a 2-year loan due December 31, 2025.
If you are unable to pay back your CEBA loan within this two-year period contact your lender to discuss options. If you are unable to make arrangements or may default on payment, consider talking with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee for options available if you are unable to repay your CEBA loan. Licensed Insolvency Trustees are professionals who are licensed by the Government of Canada to assist individuals and businesses who are facing financial difficulties.
Can CEBA Loans be included in a bankruptcy or consumer proposal?
Many small businesses utilized their CEBA loan to fund operating expenses during a period when sales were slow. If sales picked up, they may be able to repay the loan as required. However, not all small businesses survived the closures during the pandemic or have been able to recover enough to repay their CEBA loan.
Here is what happens if you can’t repay your CEBA loan:
If your business was incorporated and you close the business, there is no need to file for personal insolvency as the debt is owed by the corporation. You are not personally liable for the CEBA loan of a corporation.
If your business was a sole proprietorship or partnership, you are personally liable for repayment. If you cannot repay your CEBA loan (or other small business debts), any CEBA loan can be included in a personal bankruptcy or consumer proposal. CEBA loans are not secured. They are considered an unsecured debt and hence can be discharged in an insolvency proceeding under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in Canada.
You may also have tax debts in addition to a CEBA Loan if your business is struggling. It is possible to make a financial arrangement through a consumer proposal with the Canada Revenue Agency to deal with unpaid taxes and with your financial institution for your CEBA Loan.
Remember, even if you can’t repay your CEBA Loan by December 31, 2023, you still have two additional years to repay the loan, with interest. If you think you might default and are struggling with small business debts, your best option is to talk with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to explore different options for resolving your debt including a CEBA Loan. It’s important to note that each option has its own set of pros and cons, and it’s important to speak to an LIT to understand which one is the best for your situation.
Your LIT will talk with you about the viability of your business. Do you want, and can you afford to continue to operate? Do you have other business debts? Will eliminating these debts make your small business viable going forward? Your Licensed Insolvency Trustee can also explain the implications of filing insolvency on your ability to restart your business, including its ability to obtain credit.