Temporary layoff of employees: Tax obligations arising from contributions to a supplementary unemployment benefit plan

April 16, 2020 | Amina Boudiffa

Employers that are contemplating or have established a supplementary unemployment benefit plan to assist their employees who are collecting benefits further to a temporary or indefinite layoff due to COVID-19 will have to keep in mind the tax consequences of such measures.

A supplementary unemployment benefit plan (“SUBP“) is a plan set up by an employer under which the employer pays to a trust sums of money to be used exclusively to pay a periodic benefit to an employee who is laid off for a temporary or indefinite period.

Benefits paid from a SUBP, that meet the conditions of the Employment Insurance Regulations, are not deductible from the employment insurance benefits received by an employee. On the contrary, these benefits are paid in addition to the amounts received through the employment insurance.

Tax treatment of the employer contributions to the plan

Employer contributions to a SUBP are not considered taxable benefits to the employee under the Income Tax Act (Canada) and the Taxation Act (Quebec). Thus, the employee is not taxed on these employer contributions. Moreover, the employer is not subject to the obligation to make provincial or federal source deductions on these contributions and to add these contributions on the Relevé 1 and T4 forms.

Tax treatment of the benefits paid to the employee from the plan

In the event of dismissal, benefits received from a SUBP by an employee are taxable as employment income. In addition, the SUBP trustee is subject to the obligation to make provincial and federal source deductions on the employee benefits paid. These payments must be added on the Relevé 1 and T4 forms.


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