Q. I own an electronic sales and repair store. My wife works in the store and holds down a job for two days a week. Since, the beginning of the year, business has been steadily declining. Every month, I remit payroll deductions on behalf of two employees, my wife and I. Can she qualify for Employment Insurance benefits? If the business continues to lose money, how much can I claim? — Joel

A. The financial debacle over the past year has taken its toll on many businesses, large and small, particularly in towns that depend on one or two large employers. The pain is felt throughout the town from senior management, assembly workers, pizza stores, city revenues, and family outings.

Self-employed workers and their spouse are exempt from Employment Insurance contributions. Consequently, they do not qualify for EI (employment insurance) benefits. All workers (self-employed included) must pay into the Canada Pension Plan but they won’t be able to collect until retirement.

A Conservative party proposal for new rules to the Employment Insurance benefits may bring self-employed individuals some relief. However, only under certain conditions such as sickness, maternity, paternity or compassionate grounds. This “extension” will not cover regular EI benefits that employees receive in the event of job loss. Self-employed individuals can voluntarily contribute to this “special EI” and subsequently will be entitled to benefits.

Self-employed people will continue to reap the benefits of financial success but also bear the burden if the business fails.

– Henry Choo Chong, CGA, can be reached at choochonghcga@yahoo.ca.

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