Canadians with disabilities face tax credit issues

The disability tax credit is intended to help make life easier for Canadians who qualify for it. Why can’t the government come up with an easier process to claim this credit?

At a time when governments are looking to make life easier for the four million people in Canada living with disabilities, Kevin Turney’s* story is discouraging.

Kevin lives in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his early 80s, his son, Dan, advised him to apply for the federal government’s disability tax credit.

Now 90 and increasingly frail, Kevin has moved to a long-term care home but has yet to see a nickel of the tax credit, worth up to $8,235 for the 2018 tax year. In fact, Dan and his spouse, Susan, who live almost five hours away in Halifax, gave up even trying to apply for the credit — all because of the system’s complexity.

To qualify for the credit, Kevin would need to obtain a doctor’s certificate and complete a lengthy self-assessment questionnaire. He would then have to submit the forms to the Canada Revenue Agency, which considers each application case-by-case. The approval process typically takes about four months.

Even when Kevin lived independently, the intricacies of applying for the credit were beyond him. “He never got the disability credit because he could never remember to get the form back from his doctor,” says Susan. Making things worse, the doctor took three months to fill in the form after mislaying it.

Susan, herself a tax specialist, feels that the tax system has let her family down, and she worries about the impact on other families. “Anything like this is difficult for disabled or elderly people, and it puts more strain on families who are trying to take care of their loved ones,” she says. “It feels like there should be an easier process.”

*This is a real case study received from a CPA member. Names and places have been changed to protect privacy and sensitive financial information.