‍How do I pay CPP and EI when self-employed? This is a common question often asked by self-employed individuals. Generally, two areas where self-employed individuals differ from regular employees are contributions to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI). In this article, we will walk you through the process of paying CPP and EI as a self-employed individual. We'll cover everything from who is considered self-employed to the specific contribution rates and deadlines. So, whether you're a sole proprietor, freelancer, or independent contractor, this article will provide you with the information you need to navigate the complexities of CPP and EI.

Who is Considered Self-Employed?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recognizes several types of self-employed individuals, including sole proprietors, business partners, freelancers, independent contractors, and those involved in direct sales. Essentially, if you earn income on your own outside of traditional employment, you are considered self-employed by the CRA. To determine employee vs self-employed status, its important to look at the various factors that CRA considers. If you are still unsure about your employment status, you have the option to ask CRA for a ruling, so they can determine whether you are an employee or self-employed and whether your employment is pensionable or insurable.

CPP for Self-Employed Individuals

Image With Text Retirement And Canada Pension Plan

CPP is a mandatory program that provides retirement income to individuals working in Canada. The amount you receive as a CPP retirement benefit when you retire is a function of how much you paid into the program during your working years. As a self-employed individual, it's important to understand your responsibilities and contributions to the CPP.

Who Needs to Contribute to CPP?

If you're between the ages of 18 and 70 and earn more than $3,500 per year, you are required to contribute to the CPP. This applies to both regular employees and self-employed individuals.

CPP Contributions - Key Differences for Self-Employed

For CPP, the key difference for self-employed individuals is the contribution rate (and corresponding contribution amount). For regular employees, CPP contributions are shared between the employee and the employer. However, as a self-employed individual, you have the responsibility of both the employee and employer contributions to the CPP. This means you'll need to contribute twice the annual percentage up to the yearly maximum.

The CPP contribution rates for self-employed individuals are subject to annual adjustments. It's essential to check the CRA website for the most up-to-date rates. For example, for the year 2023, the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE) is $66,600, and the self-employment contribution rate is 11.9%. This means that as a self-employed individual, you will contribute 11.9% of your net self-employment income, up to the maximum contribution amount of $7,508.90. To calculate your annual CPP contributions at tax time, you will need to refer to Form 5000 – Schedule 8 (CPP Contributions on Self-Employment and Other Earnings to calculate your annual contributions. Quebec residents should use Form 5005 – Schedule 8 – Quebec Pension Plan Contributions.

Please note if you are still unsure of the amount you should be contributing to your CPP, we recommend contacting a professional tax accountant.

Benefits of CPP Contributions

Contributing to the CPP has several advantages for self-employed individuals. First and foremost, it helps build a foundation for your retirement income. By making regular CPP contributions, you are securing a portion of your income for your retirement years. Additionally, contributing to the CPP has several benefits:

  1. Tax deduction: When you complete your tax return, you can claim a deduction for the "employer half" of the CPP contribution. This deduction can help reduce your overall taxable income.
  2. Federal tax credit: You are also eligible for a 15% federal tax credit for the "employee half" of the CPP contribution. This credit further reduces your tax liability.

Other Options for CPP

Self-employed individuals have some flexibility when it comes to CPP contributions. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  1. Incorporation: If you're a sole proprietor, incorporating your business provides the option to pay yourself a salary or dividends. By paying yourself a lower salary and taking the remaining income as dividends, you can reduce your CPP premiums.
  2. Pension plans: Incorporated individuals can participate in pension plans, allowing them to save for retirement while potentially reducing CPP premiums. However, it's important to note that sole proprietors do not have these options and must pay CPP premiums based on their net self-employment income.
  3. Alternative investments: Consider taking out a dividend or T4 income annually to max our your TFSA (tax-free savings account), and then use the TFSA as a replacement for your CPP. Another option is to use a corporate owned insurance policy to grow cash value on a tax-sheltered basis.

It's essential to evaluate these alternatives based on your business structure, financial goals, and long-term plans. Refer to our article that answers the question Should I Incorporate My Business that can further provide more guidance on whether incorporating is the right decision for you.

EI for Self-Employed Individuals

Image With Text Employment Insurance

While regular employees are required to pay EI premiums, self-employed individuals have the option to opt in or out of the EI benefits program. If they opt into the EI benefits program for self-employed, they have access to certain EI benefits in the event of interruption of their income. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Maternity benefits: For individuals away from work due to pregnancy or recent childbirth.
  2. Parental benefits: Available to parents on leave to care for their newborn or newly adopted child.
  3. Sickness benefits: Intended for those unable to work due to medical reasons.
  4. Family caregiver benefits for children: Available to caregivers supporting critically ill or injured individuals under 18.
  5. Family caregiver benefits for adults: Offered to caregivers aiding critically ill or injured individuals aged 18 or over.
  6. Compassionate care benefits: Reserved for caregivers tending to individuals requiring end-of-life care.

Each type of special benefit has its own maximum weekly rates of pay, as well as the maximum number of weeks you can collect the benefit. It’s important to know these maximums and you can find an easy to read chart outlining them here. Please note that the regular benefits are not availble through the self-employed program under Employment Insurance.

If you choose to opt into the EI program, you will need to register through your My Service Canada Account and pay the same EI premium rate as regular employees. EI premiums for self-employed individuals are paid annually when you file your annual Income Tax and Benefit Return using Schedule 13 (Employment Insurance Premiums on Self-Employment and Other Eligible Earnings). It's important to note that self-employed workers are exempt from paying the employer's portion of EI premiums, unlike regular employees.

Eligibility and Payment of EI Premiums

To be eligible for EI benefits as a self-employed individual, you must meet certain criteria. You must:

  • have contributed to EI premiums for a full 12 months.
  • have earned a minimum amount of self-employed income during the previous year (between January 1 and December 31) before you apply for benefits. For example, to be eligible for benefits between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023, you need to have made at least $8,255 in net self-employed earnings in 2022.
  • have decreased the amount of time spent on business by more than 40% for at least one week.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you've never claimed benefits, you can opt out of the program at the end of any tax year. However, once you've claimed benefits, you'll need to continue contributing to the program as long as you're self-employed. Further, it's also crucial to note that if your business fails after paying into the system for 12 months, you will be ineligible for any benefits.


As a self-employed individual, understanding how to pay into the CPP and EI programs is crucial for small businesses. By contributing to the CPP, you are securing a portion of your income for retirement. Opting into the EI program provides access to specialized benefits, but it's important to weigh the benefits against the potential pitfalls and consider alternatives that align with your business and financial goals. Further, by properly calculating and remitting CPP/EI contributions, self-employed individuals can ensure compliance with their payroll remittances and maximize their benefits.

Remember, this guide is intended to provide general information and should not replace personalized advice from a qualified tax professional. If you’re still unsure and are looking for an accountant in Hamilton to provide professional guidance, contact us.

If you want to learn more about other tax and accounting topics, explore the rest of our blog!


The information provided on this page is intended to provide general information. The information does not take into account your personal situation and is not intended to be used without consultation from accounting/tax professionals. NBG Chartered Professional Accountant Professional Corporation will not be held liable for any problems that arise from the usage of the information provided on this page.

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Written by Neena Gambhir

I'm a Chartered Professional Accountant and have been navigating the waters of public accounting for over a decade. I've had the privilege to work with all sorts of clients – from small family-owned businesses to those big names on the stock exchange, spanning various sectors. Through these experiences, I've gathered a ton of knowledge, especially when it comes to Canadian corporate and individual taxes. I've also got a solid handle on the ins and outs of partnership, trust, and estate taxes.

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