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CRA faces fresh criticism on disability tax credit, this time from autism group

The Canada Revenue Agency is 'inconsistent' in the way it assesses eligibility for the disability tax credit for Canadians with autism, one advocacy group alleges.
The Canada Revenue Agency is 'inconsistent' in the way it assesses eligibility for the disability tax credit for Canadians with autism, one advocacy group alleges. Lars Hagberg/CP

Canadian families coping with autism face “inconsistent” evaluations by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of their applications for, or renewals of, the disability tax credit (DTC), one advocacy group is alleging.

“We want fair and equitable access to the DTC for Canadians who have autism,” Dermot Cleary, chair of Autism Canada, said in a statement.

“Our organization is hearing too many stories from Canadians across the country about the difficulties of applying for, or keeping, a DTC for their children with autism, including adult individuals who have had a DTC for decades only to see it withdrawn by CRA.”

The DTC is a non-refundable tax credit, which means it serves to reduce or eliminate eligible Canadians’ tax bill. Recipients do not receive a transfer from the government, as is the case with other credits.

Autism results in out-of-pocket costs of $60,000 a year on average, according to Autism Canada. “The DTC is an essential mechanism to help offset that financial burden,” the organization said.

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The group is calling on Ottawa to review “fundamental procedural inequities that appear to be hampering access to the tax benefit.”

Other disability organizations have also recently expressed concern about issues with the DTC. Advocates have alleged that Canadians with autism and other mental health disabilities have lost access to the DTC over the past two or three years, according to the National Post.

Diabetes Canada also sounded the alarm bell in October, saying the approval rate for people with diabetes has recently plunged.

READ MORE: Reality Check: Are the Liberals clawing back benefits for people with diabetes?

In order to be eligible for the credit, Canadians with disabilities must demonstrate, among other things, that they must devote at least 14 hours a week to “life-sustaining therapy.”

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But many with Type 1 diabetes have been denied the benefit, despite having physicians certify that they require more than 14 hours a week for insulin therapy, according to Diabetes Canada.

READ MORE: Liberals hitting diabetes patients with tax grab, Tories and health groups say

On average, the CRA receives 220,000 DTC applications a year and approves over 80 per cent of them, John Power, press secretary to Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier told Global News via email. More than 750,000 individuals claimed the credit on their tax returns last year, receiving $1.3 billion in tax relief.

“We expect this number to increase this year,” Power wrote. “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.”

LISTEN: Dermot Cleary of Autism Canada joins Tasha Kheiriddin on 640 Toronto

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Last week, the Liberals announced they were reinstating the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), originally formed in 2004 and dissolved by the Conservatives in 2006, which will bring together stakeholders and CRA officials.

Diabetes Canada had asked that the DAC be restored with a mandate to act as a liaison between Parliament and the CRA.