The Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) was brought together to “provide advice to the Minister of National Revenue and the Commissioner of the Agency on the administration and interpretation of the laws and programs related to disability tax measures; ways in which the needs and expectations of the disability community can be better taken into consideration; current administrative practices and how to enhance the quality of services for persons with disabilities.” In May of 2019, they released their first report.
The 107-page document was a very interesting read. It had 42 recommendations in all. For people living with insulin-dependent diabetes however, the most important issues to note were the following:
Forms should be easier to access and to fill.
Many individuals, groups and physicians found the form T2201 confusing and difficult to fill out. Current wording left some doctors feeling that they were not qualified to fill out the forms. This left a rift between them and their patients that they felt should not exist.
The DAC recommended that the forms be much more streamlined and easy to use. They also suggested that individuals should be able to apply for the disability tax credit online. This change has been implemented by the Canada Revenue Agency this year. You can now upload your application and supporting documents using your “My Account” access code.
More people should be aware of the credit.
The Disability Advisory Committee felt that more individuals and their caregivers should be made aware of the disability tax credit.
They felt that a public awareness campaign on the credit and its eligibility criteria should be a high priority for Revenue Canada. They felt that physicians and individuals would benefit from videos and in-person sessions.
CRA staff should be uniformly trained.
Individuals, groups and doctors noted that it was very difficult to get assistance from Revenue Canada agents when they had questions. If they did manage to get through to a person for help, the person was either no help or provided contrary advice to what was told to another taxpayer. It was felt that all agents should receive identical policy training and that a dedicated call center be created for questions related to the disability tax credit.
It was also felt that there should be a uniformity in the way applications were handled. A more streamlined process would help both individual taxpayers and the staff involved in accessing applications.
Approval should be based on a diagnosis.
The DAC recommended that certain conditions should automatically be approved for the disability tax credit if they are using specific forms of life-sustaining therapy.
It was felt that if a taxpayer was alive, they had to be successfully using life-sustaining therapy. “These are therapies that are lifelong and continuous, requiring close medical supervision. Without them, the individual could not survive or would face serious life-threatening challenges… These therapies include but are not necessarily limited to: intensive insulin therapy for type 1 diabetes…”
The DTC should be a refundable tax credit.
Currently, the disability tax credit is a non-refundable tax credit. In a nutshell, this means that it reduces your taxable income. If you are a low-income earner, this credit has very little financial value to you. The DAC would like to see this credit turned into something that would offer greater benefit to those who have a lower income.
Registered Disability Savings Plan Access
The Disability Advisory Committee suggested that there should be another avenue of access for the Registered Disability Savings Plan. They felt that clawing back the RDSP when someone no longer qualified for the tax credit was inappropriate and punitive. Such a practice makes it impossible for many individuals and families to do solid financial planning.
While the Federal government has not yet created another way to access the RDSP, in their February 2019 budget they have announced they will no longer claw back money contributed if the DTC is lost.
Follow up letters should have more transparency.
Follow up letters are the bane of our existence. Some people get them. Some people don’t. If you get them, you tend to feel stress and pressure.
According to the report, in most cases, these letters are not even necessary. The only thing it does is stall the process and make doctors feel that their credibility is being undermined.
To make things worse, the Canadian Revenue Agency does not always let individuals know that a follow-up letter has been sent to their doctor. The DAC finds this unacceptable.
The committee feels that complete transparency on the part of CRA would “reduce the stress, time and cost involved in applying for the DTC. A more open and respectful process would also reduce the need to appeal CRA decisions regarding DTC eligibility.”
Easier access to appeal services and tax court.
If a person is denied the disability tax credit, they often do not know that they can ask to have their application reviewed by another agent. They don’t know that they can send in more supporting documents from their doctor before even starting a formal appeal.
Many people who apply for the DTC are intimidated by the idea of taking on the federal government in court. They may lack the knowledge or the resources to take their case forward even if they would most likely win. The committee, therefore recommends that a straightforward, transparent and informed process should be created.
Applicants should have access to all relevant information (including the precise reason their application was denied) and documents (including copies of all information submitted by health providers that pertain to their application).
The Disability Advisory Committee feels that the CRA should create a document entitled “Your Rights When a Notice of Determination Denies a Claim for the DTC”. It would explain the requirements, timelines and details for filing a review; a notice of objection with the Appeals Branch; and a notice of appeal with the Tax Court of Canada. It would further explain many more details required to launch a successful appeal.
What can we do with the Committee’s recommendations?
These recommendations echo much of what has been suggested by the Senate Review Committee. The repetition of the same themes can only serve to strengthen our position…that the Disability Tax Credit should be fairly and equitably applied to all individuals with intensely monitored insulin-dependent diabetes.
Now that both groups have presented their reports, it is our job as advocates and people living with diabetes to share their message. We must ensure that our sitting Members of Parliament are aware of these recommendations and support them.
It also falls on us to keep this issue relevant in the upcoming Federal Election. Make sure that those individuals seeking to be your next MP are also aware of the issues. Help to educate them and share with them why these changes must be made by the Canada Revenue Agency. Ask that the next Minister of Finance work to see these changes happen and allow people with insulin-dependent diabetes fair and equitable access to this credit.
What does this mean for Canadians with diabetes?
Currently, the findings in both reports remain suggestions. Some suggestions like easier access to the DTC online, have been implemented by the Federal government but most have not.
Until all of these recommendations are accepted by the Federal government and the Canadian Revenue Agency, access to the Disability Tax Credit remains the same. Unless you are under 18 years of age, you still must prove that you spend 14 hours per week on approved therapies.
Diabetes Advocacy has a short quiz that can help you to decide if you should apply for the tax credit based on your current insulin therapy regimen. We also have a spreadsheet that can help you to track the time you spend on your diabetes care.