The Current

Canada Revenue Agency needs to be 'more consistent' with disability tax credits, say advocates

Canadians with disabilities and their families are raising concerns about how the Canada Revenue Agency applies tax credits — where some say those who are entitled to a break are missing out.
Canadians with disabilities and their families are raising concerns about how the Canada Revenue Agency applies tax credits. Pictured: Canada's Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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Canadians with disabilities and their families are voicing their frustrations with the federal government's disability tax credit system — where some say those who are entitled to a break are missing out.

Rex Baldwin, father of two daughters with autism, said his seven-year-old daugther gets the tax credit while his four-year-old doesn't.

How can an accountant supersede a pediatrician- Rex Baldwin, father of two daughters with autism 

Baldwin, who spoke with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti, said his daughters have the same diagnosis, but encountered different results with the tax credit application.

His family, with their pediatrician's help, had no problem getting the tax credit for his older daughter. They were granted a tax deduction that brings his family between $3,000 and $4,000 per year, according to Baldwin.

The disability tax credit system is inconsistent and outdated, according to families and advocates. (Shutterstock)

For his younger daughter, Baldwin said they're waiting on the outcome of a fourth application.

"How can an accountant supersede a pediatrician?" Baldwin asked.

Baldwin said the tax credit helps his single-income family.

"We should get it under the logic of the system."

The Canada Revenue Agency needs to "be more consistent" when it comes to applying its disability tax credit, said Baldwin.

Jennifer Robson, an associate professor of political management at Carleton University, points to possible barriers when it comes people receiving their benefits.

"There are obstacles in terms of sometimes the complexity of the application form and … in some instances, the design of the tax credits or the benefits themselves are such that if you don't have a high enough taxable income you're really not going to get any benefit out of it."

Advocates point to complicated forms as potential barriers for those trying to apply for their benefits. (iStock)

"For example, the application form for the working income tax benefit — if you fill this out on paper, it is 42 different calculation steps that you have to go through before you find out if you might qualify to get that benefit."

National Revenue agency's response

The Current requested an interview with National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier. She was not available, but her office sent the following statement.

Last week we announced that we are re-instating the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), originally formed in 2004 and disbanded by the conservatives in 2006, which will work closely with key stakeholders to ensure we administer all measures for persons with disabilities in a fair, transparent and accessible way. The DAC will bring together officials from the CRA with interested and knowledgeable stakeholders to make sure the views and interests of persons with disabilities are incorporated into CRA decision-making.

The CRA receives an average of 220,000 applications for the DTC each year. More than 80 per cent of these applications are approved. More than 750,000 individuals claimed the DTC on their income tax returns in 2016-17.  This represents more than $1.3 billion in tax relief. We expect this number to increase this year.

It is also worth noting that last year saw more Canadians than ever before qualifying for the Disability Tax Credit under the category of mental functions. The Canada Revenue Agency enforces the Income Tax Act and related acts, and is committed to administer measures for persons with disabilities in a fair, transparent, and accessible way.

Listen to the full segment above.

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese, Lara O'Brien, Susana Ferreira and Mary-Catherine McIntosh