Tax credits for medical expenses, people with disabilities, and caregivers

Not everyone with arthritis experiences disability. However, for those who do, you may be eligible for certain tax credits. Similarly, some medical expenses, including medical cannabis to address arthritis symptoms, can also be claimed on your tax return. But sometimes people aren’t quite certain how it all works—after all, not everyone with arthritis considers themselves a person with a disability, and not everyone who considers themselves to have a disability meets the eligibility criteria for certain funding programs.

“One of the big things people don’t realize is that with [claiming] medical expenses you are confined to a 12-month period, but it doesn’t have to be January to December,” says Barbara Eckert, a bookkeeper in Toronto.  That is, you can claim medical expenses paid in any 12-month period ending in the current tax year and not claimed the previous year, such as June-May. “So as long as it’s within the calendar year, you can use any 12-month period.”  Federal and provincial medical expenses must be claimed for the same time period, though. She adds that people may not be aware of what they can claim if they are a caregiver to someone living with arthritis, or that some over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatories can be claimed if your health care provider writes a prescription for them.

While applying for or claiming tax credits may feel a little daunting, it’s well worth considering to save yourself some money. If you’re working with an accountant or bookkeeper, be sure to ask about their experience in this area. Below is a list of tax credits for which you may be eligible.  Further information can be found in the Canadian Revenue Agency’s (CRA) guide to Tax Measures for Persons with Disabilities:  Disability-Related Information, available in web format, PDF, as well as large-print PDF.  Other formats are available by calling 1-800-959-8281.

Disability Tax Credit (DTC)

Eligibility criteria: The parameters are fairly strictly defined, so visit the CRA’s  webpage on Eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit for more information. To be eligible, a person must meet at least one of the following criteria: 1) be blind; 2) be markedly restricted in at least one of the basic activities of daily living; 3) be significantly restricted in two or more or the basic activities of daily living (can include a vision impairment); or 4) need life-sustaining therapy.

In addition, the person's impairment must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be prolonged, which means the impairment has lasted, or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months
  • be present all or substantially all the time (at least 90% of the time)  (CRA, 2020)

If you are a caregiver, you may be able to claim a portion of the disability tax credit for a spouse or a dependant (for example, your child or your parent).

How to apply: Visit the CRA’s Disability Tax Credit webpage for more information about qualifying and applying.  Qualifying for the DTC will require that your medical practitioner complete a T2201 form indicating the severity of your restrictions and their impact.   A DTC application needs to be approved by the Canadian Revenue Agency before you can claim the credit.

Canadian Caregiver Credit (CCC)

Eligibility criteria: This credit helps caregivers with the expenses involved in taking care of their spouse, common-law partner or dependant who has an impairment in physical or mental functions. According to the CRA “The amount you can claim depends on your relationship to the person for whom you are claiming the CCC, your circumstances, the person’s net income, and whether other credits are being claimed for that person.”

How to claim: For more information on the amount you can claim and how to fill out your tax return accordingly, visit the CRA’s Canadian Caregiver Credit webpage. You may also be asked to submit a signed statement from a medical practitioner.  

Medical Expenses (including medical cannabis)

Eligibility criteria: Refer to the Government of Canada’s website for a list of Eligible medical expenses you can claim on your tax return. This can include items such as braces for a limb, orthopedic shoes, boots and inserts, as well as walking aids. Check to see if a prescription is required.  Eligible expenses also include medical cannabis.  To claim medical cannabis as an expense, individuals must possess a medical document and purchase their cannabis from a federally licensed seller with whom they are registered.  Additional areas of medical expenses may include care, treatment, and training; construction and renovation; devices, equipment, and supplies; gluten-free food products (for people with celiac disease); prescribed drugs, medications, and other substances; service animals; services and fees; as well as travel expenses (Government of Canada, 2021).

How to claim: According to the CRA,you can claim eligible medical expenses on line 33099 or line 33199 of your tax return (Step 5 – Federal tax).” For more information, visit the CRA’s guide to Medical Expenses.

Home Buyers’ Amount

Eligibility criteria:  An individual may be eligible for this credit if they recently purchased a home to better meet their own accessibility needs or those of a relative with a disability.  To qualify for the credit, the home buyer or the relative for whom the home was bought must have been approved as eligible for the Disability Tax Credit.“[The] purchase must be to allow the person with the disability to live in a home that is more accessible or better suited to their needs,” says the CRA.  The buyer or the relative for whom the home was bought must intend to occupy the home as a primary place of residence within a year from when the home was purchased.

How to claim: Visit the CRA website for more details about Line 31270:  Home buyer’s amount

Home Accessibility Expenses

Eligibility criteria: You may be able to claim this non-refundable tax credit if you own a home in Canada and paid for eligible renovations to improve the safety or accessibility of your home if you or a dependent are eligible for the disability tax credit. “The renovations must be permanently part of the home and meet one of the following criteria: allow the person to gain access to the home or be mobile or functional within the home [or] reduce the risk of harm within the home or in accessing the home,” says the CRA.

How to claim: Visit the CRA website and check out the information for Line 31285: Home accessibility expense for further details.

Refundable Medical Expense Supplement

Eligibility criteria: If you are working, have low income, and have high medical expenses, you may be eligible to claim a refundable medical expense supplement,  says the CRA.  You must meet all of the eligibility criteria listed on the CRA website to claim this credit.

How to claim:  The CRA’s webpage on Line 45200: Refundable medical expense supplement can provide further information. 

Canada Workers Benefit (CWB)

Eligibility criteria: The CWB is for low-income individuals and families who earned income from employment or business. The CWB consists of a basic amount and a disability supplement. You may be able to claim a CWB disability supplement if you are eligible for the disability tax credit and you had working income in the tax year.

How to claim: Visit the CRA website to learn more about Line 45300: Canada workers benefit 

Specially Equipped Motor Vehicle GST/HST Rebate

Eligibility criteria: If you purchased a specially equipped vehicle or modified an existing vehicle for accessibility purposes, you may be eligible for a partial rebate on the GST/HST you paid, within four years of purchase.  A qualifying vehicle includes “a motor vehicle that is equipped with a device designed exclusively to assist in placing a wheelchair in the vehicle without having to collapse the wheelchair, or with an auxiliary driving control to facilitate the operation of the vehicle by an individual with a disability” according to the CRA.

How to apply: To download a PDF copy of the application form, visit the CRA’s webpage GST518 GST/HST Specially Equipped Motor Vehicle Rebate Application

Excise Tax

Eligibility criteria: According to the CRA, “If you have a permanent mobility impairment and cannot safely use public transportation, you can ask for a refund of part of the federal excise tax on the gasoline you buy. A qualified medical practitioner must certify the impairment.”

How to apply: Submit Form XE8, Application for Refund of Federal Excise Tax on Gasoline. Visit the CRA webpage on the Excise gasoline tax refund for more information.

Expenses for medical services not available in your area

Eligibility criteria: If you live in Québec, you may be eligible to claim travel and lodging expenses for medical services not available in your area within 200 kilometres of your home; or moving expenses paid to move to within 80 kilometres of a health establishment in Québec located 200 kilometres or more from your former home.

How to apply: Visit the Revenu Quebec website and check the information for Line 378: Expenses for medical services not available in your area  for more details.
 

Community Volunteer Income Tax Program

Feeling overwhelmed?  Not sure where to start? Some individuals may qualify  for a free tax clinic offered by volunteers in your community if you have a “modest income” (below $35,000 for individuals or below $50,000 for a household of four, for example) and “simple tax situation” (income come from employment, pension, benefits, RRSPs, support payments or scholarships). You can learn more on the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program webpage.

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