'Awful feeling': P.E.I. mom battling CRA over tax credit for daughter with autism

A mother from Souris, P.E.I., is frustrated after being denied twice for a federal disability tax credit by the Canada Revenue Agency for her daughter, who lives with autism.

Revenue agency says eligibility not based on a diagnosis, but rather on the effects of the impairment

Rachel Perry says she's been fighting with the Canada Revenue Agency for more than a year to claim the disability tax credit for her 3½-year-old daughter Jazlyn, who lives with autism. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

A mother from Souris, P.E.I. is frustrated after being denied twice for a federal disability tax credit by the Canada Revenue Agency for her daughter, who lives with autism.   

Rachel Perry says the whole process of trying to claim the benefit for her 3½-year-old daughter, who has had symptoms since birth and was finally diagnosed in August, has been a nightmare.   

The disability tax credit (DTC) is a non-refundable credit that helps people with disabilities, or their supporting family members, reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay. Perry is hoping to claim the credit for the past four years going back to when her daughter was born. 

Perry applied for the tax credit on behalf of her daughter, Jazlyn Blaisdell, twice in the past year — but has been told both times by CRA more medical information is required. Perry said she got her doctor to fill out the initial tax form and has submitted letters from doctors and herself.

A letter from CRA to Perry says, "we require further medical information concerning the effects of your dependent's impairment from a medical practitioner" — but Perry feels it's not clear what more she can provide because she has already submitted multiple letters from doctors and other medical professionals. 

Perry says she lives in 'vigilance and fear' for her daughter's safety, and the disability tax credit would be a big help in supporting her. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Perry said she's also called CRA to find out more details about the kind of information it's looking for and was told a letter would be coming in the mail. 

"I don't feel that there's any more information to give, that it's there in black and white."

"[It's] an awful feeling when you know that your child's eligible that everything has to be such a fight."

Perry said her daughter has major behavioural issues, she's not potty-trained and RCMP have had to look for her when she's run off. She said it's difficult to even put her daughter in the car for a trip to the store without a meltdown with kicking, screaming and crying. 

'Vigilance and fear'

"I live in vigilance and fear everyday for her safety," she said. 

"I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that CRA will kind of take care of us. I don't want my little girl slipping through the cracks."

Perry said getting the tax credit would make a big difference and could help her get a device that could track her daughter in case she takes off, build a tall fence around their home, or buy devices to help with Jazlyn's communication. 

Now, Perry is planning to get a letter from the PEI Council of People with Disabilities to send to CRA, as well.

Dermot Cleary, chair of Autism Canada, says the group is hearing from many families across the country about difficulties applying for the disability tax credit. (CBC)

"All I can do is keep trying," she said.  

Perry is not alone. Autism Canada on Thursday said it is hearing from many families that challenges while applying for or renewing the DTC have become more frequent and onerous. Since Oct. 18, the group has heard from 142 families.

"The stories we heard were frustrating, maddening and, without exception, heartbreaking. Overwhelmingly, they were stories of delays, misinformation and inconsistency," said Dermot Cleary, chair of Autism Canada.

Research suggests on average, autism costs a family $60,000 per year to access necessary supports not included in existing social and health services, and Autism Canada says the DTC is an essential to help offset that financial burden.

CRA facing criticism

The CRA has faced mounting criticism in recent weeks, with critics saying it targets ordinary Canadians. 

[It's] an awful feeling when you know that your child's eligible that everything has to be such a fight.— Rachel Perry

Canada's auditor general issued a scathing report last week, finding that more than half of the 53 million calls the agency received ended with either a busy signal or a pre-recorded message.

The report also found that when auditors placed calls to the agency, they got incorrect information from CRA agents 30 per cent of the time

Case-by-case basis

In a statement responding to Perry's case, CRA said it is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that all Canadians receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled, including the disability tax credit. 

CRA said it cannot comment on the specifics of Perry's case, but that she can contact the CRA to get information that is specific to her situation.

CRA said eligibility is not based on a diagnosis or a certain kind of disability, but rather on the effects of the impairment on an individuals' ability to perform the basic activities of daily living. Although someone may have an impairment that affects their daily life, or receive a different disability-related benefit, they may not be eligible for the credit. 

CRA said eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the medical information provided on form T2201 and other medical reports certified by the medical practitioner. Examples of these reports would include psychological reports and available diagnostic test results. 

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.