What the Disability Advisory Committee Annual Report means to Canadians with diabetes

Disability Advisory Committee report Diabetes Advocacy

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.

awareness of the DTC Diabetes Advocacy

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.

access to financial assistance

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.

disability tax credit

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.

You can learn more about what is involved in applying for the Disability Tax Credit here or message us any time with your questions.

DAC May 2019 report infographic Diabetes Advocacy

The DTC…We have come a long way. We will win the war!

we will win dtc warThe past few weeks have been incredibly busy and I have never been more proud! I have been battling the Federal government over the Disability Tax Credit since the early 2000s.  There have been victories and most recently there have been setbacks but we have come a long way!!

Let me give you a bit of history.

Back in 2002 or so, a lady named Shelley Tyler took the Canada Revenue Agency to court and won.  She believed that her son was eligible for the Disability Tax Credit because they took an inordinate amount of time to feed him and keep him alive.  Her son had type 1 diabetes.

Mrs. Tyler was kind and shared her experience with others.  I used some of her work in preparing my own application.  Others did as well.

More and more families were applying for the Disability Tax Credit.  They were still being turned down, but even more where refusing to take no for an answer.  They were taking their cases to Tax Court–and winning!

Families like the Chafes were winning the argument that insulin therapy was administered 24 hours a day when using an insulin pump.  This led to a year of qualification for all pumpers.

(The irony of recent comments that the increased use of insulin pump therapy is why applications have been denied is not lost on me. )

Changes were happening.  The diabetes community was roaring.  We were a grassroots group.  The Canadian Diabetes Association was only in the infancy of creating a dedicated Advocacy Office and JDRF was focused on funding research. That was okay because the diabetes community was powerful in its own right.

Together we rallied. We worked on court cases.  Friends and family members contacted their MPs and demanded fairness. The diabetes community was represented at the Federal review of DTC fairness.

The result was legislative change.  Children with diabetes were now given the tax credit based on a certified diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  Adults were also allowed the credit but their means test was a bit more strict.

Recently there seems to have been a change in how disability tax credit applications are handled for people with diabetes.  We have discussed it before.  One thing hasn’t changed however and that is the power of the diabetes community.

Thanks in part to the power of social media,  the community voice is louder than ever and I couldn’t be more proud!

Diabetes Canada is sending well-spoken, knowledgeable individuals to meet with CRA and voice our concerns.  JDRF has been delving into the issue for months as well.  Together they are creating a powerful voice.  Behind the scenes, there are many more grassroots groups working together.  Everyone is pushing the same  message.  “Diabetes is a 24/7 job.  People living with insulin dependent diabetes take more than 14 hours per week to perform life-sustaining therapy.”

The message is getting out there.  This issue was all over the media.  My Twitter feed has been blown up with articles and Tweets.  I am proud! The diabetes community is coming together.

Some members have voiced their frustration. This should have been finished years ago.  People living with diabetes have enough to deal with.  Fighting their government for a credit that they obviously qualify should not be another stressor. They are right of course.  I totally understand their get their pain.

I have been in this battle since the beginning.  It’s been a long one but please don’t lose hope! This is not a war that is lost.  It is a battle that will see victory.

The diabetes community is a powerful voice.  Canadians with diabetes are coming together in record numbers.  We are using that voice to let CRA and the Minister of Finance know that we are not prepared to back down.

Now is the time to keep the momentum going.  Write your letters to your MPs. Answer the call when one of the diabetes organizations calls looking for your story.  Our voice is strong.  We have come a long way and together we will finally win the war.

How to Fight for the Disability Tax Credit with Type 1 Diabetes

How to fight for the DTC with T1D

Diabetes Canada recently released a statement claiming that the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) is now declining 80% of applications for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) submitted by people living with type 1 diabetes.  I cannot confirm or deny these figures. I can state that I am seeing a significant increase in the number of people contacting. They are reaching out because they or their clients have been declined for the DTC.

What is going on with the DTC?

No one seems to know.  CRA claims that there has been no change in policy.  Public concern seems to suggest otherwise.

For years, people with diabetes have often received a follow-up letter when they have made their application asking for more details from their doctor.  In the past, that letter was filled out in a similar manner to the initial application and the claim was approved.  This seems to be happening with less frequency now.

People living with diabetes are often receiving a letter stating that “an adult who independently manages insulin therapy on a regular basis generally does not meet the 14 hours per week requirement unless there are exceptional circumstances.”.  In some cases, this is followed by a request for more information but in other cases, it is part of the denial for their claim.

Does this mean that I should not apply?

No.  People living with diabetes usually spend over 14 hours per week to intensively manage their diabetes.  Granted this does not include all people living with diabetes but does include a large majority.

You should continue to send in your detailed applications. Make sure that you are adding tasks that are approved and that your total is over 14 hours.

Get our Disability Tax Credit workbook to ensure you are spending over 14 hours per week on approved tasks. 

What happens after I apply for the DTC?

Once you and your doctor have completed your forms and returned your application, there will be some time before you hear back from CRA.

Odds are high that your doctor will be contacted and asked for more information.  Again, make sure that the follow-up letter is detailed. Take care to clearly show that you spend over 14 hours per week on your diabetes care.

What if I am rejected?

If you are turned down for the Disability Tax Credit, you have a few options.

First, you can ask that your file be reassessed by another officer.  Sometimes fresh eyes will give a fresh perspective and the ruling can be changed.

Second, you can formally appeal their decision within the first 90 days of your rejection letter.  This is a detailed process but does not necessarily require a lawyer.  If you choose to go this route (and I would encourage everyone to do so), be sure to keep careful and detailed records. You must also contact CRA for a copy of your file under the Access to Information Act to better understand what you are fighting against.

Read more tips on appealing the DTC here.

Write your Member of Parliament

Finally, at any stage of the process, I would encourage you to ask for the assistance of your MP.  Whether you are thinking of applying, have applied or have been rejected, it is important for Members of Parliament to be aware of this situation.  Diabetes Canada has written a great template for people to send to their MP.  Download the letter. Be sure to personalize it to your situation and forward it on.  Remember that letters sent to a Member of Parliament in Ottawa do not require postage.

The more MPs that contact the Finance Department and ask them what is going on, the stronger the case for change and fairness.

Together we were able to get access to this credit for some people living with diabetes over 10 years ago.  Working together again, we will create change for even more individuals!

Take our short quiz to see if you might qualify for the Disability Tax Credit.

The Disability Tax Credit for Adults…What you need to know

Disability Tax Credit tips

The Disability Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit available to Canadians who meet very strict criteria set out by the Canadian Revenue Agency.

One of the criteria is that you must take over 14 hours per week to perform life-sustaining therapy. This is the section that many people living with diabetes qualify under.  Before you apply there are a few things that you need to know.

Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you qualify.

Not everyone with diabetes will qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC).  The criteria states that children with Type 1 diabetes do qualify based on diagnosis alone. Adults (anyone over 18 years of age) however, must show that they spend over 14 hours per week on their care.

Take our quick quiz to see if you might qualify.

Why do children get the DTC so easily?

toddler from Diabetes Advocacy

The reason that children qualify for the Disability Tax Credit is because CRA feels that the time that they spend on their care AND the time that their parents spend on their care, together is equal to more than 14 hours per week.  Adults do not require the help of others for the most part. They, therefore, must prove that they, themselves spend over 14 hours per week on therapy to keeping themselves alive.

Get our workbook to see if you spend over 14 hours per week on eligible tasks. 

Do I really spend 14 hours per week keeping myself alive?

That is a question that only you can answer.  I will say that if you are intensively managing your diabetes, then more than likely, you do take an inordinate amount of time out of your day to manage your diabetes care.

A person who is not reliant on an external source of insulin to live does not have to be concerned about blood glucose readings, anticipated activity levels, impending illness,  or fat contents of meals when planning their day to day activities.  The average person does not have to draw up a syringe, put in an infusion set or calibrate a continuous glucose monitoring sensor.  A person without diabetes does not have to keep track of their insulin requirements, blood glucose levels or activity levels in a journal.

These tasks are commonplace for a person with diabetes. They are also all tasks that are recognized by CRA and count towards the 14 hour total required to be certified for the Disability Tax Credit as requiring life-sustaining therapy.

I hear that adults no longer qualify so why should I try?

diabetes is hard Diabetes Advocacy

Some adults are experiencing a harder time getting the tax credit.  There can be many reasons for your application being denied.  You may be including tasks that are not recognized by CRA as being an allowable part of therapy.  Things like grocery shopping, doctors appointments and trips to the pharmacy are not allowed to be included in your total.

Another reason that adults are being turned down is that they are not providing enough details on their own specific care.   Use the information found online and in groups as a guideline. You should then fill out the T2201 application in your own words with your own specific care details.  

Final thoughts

final thoughts from Diabetes Advocacy

Make your application your own.  Spend one week detailing what you do each day.  It will take you time to stop and write everything down but it will be worth it.  Time each task.  Note how often you perform it. If you have trouble deciding what to document, our workbook or spreadsheet might help you.

Take this week’s worth of information and then compare it to your online resources.  Eliminate the tasks that CRA won’t approve.  Add in the tasks that you did but forgot to add in your personal list.  Now total your time spent.  

Most likely, you will find that you spend more than 14 hours per week on your care.  This data can also be shared with your doctor at your appointment. It will help he/she understand who much time you do put into your care.  This will further be of use if he/she if they receive a follow-up letter from CRA asking for more details on your care.

Adults with insulin dependent diabetes who test regularly (6+ times per week), who inject insulin multiple times per day through injections or an insulin pump, and make their own adjustments to their insulin regimen should apply for the Disability Tax Credit.  If you are turned down, you have the right to ask for your application to be approved by another CRA staff member. Sometimes the second review still does not turn out in your favour but don’t despair. At that point,  you have the right to see all correspondence used in your file and begin a formal appeal process.

If you are unsure of how to fill in your application or you just want someone to review your totals, I can assist you. Email me , check out the Disability Tax Credit page or check out our helpful downloads for more information.

Disability Tax Credit 101

Disability Tax Credit Basics Its that time of the year again.  The time when the tax man comes to call and we scurry to find any way to hang onto our hard earned dollars that we can. This is also the time of year when I find myself inundated with many questions regarding the Disability Tax Credit (DTC).

I am not an accountant. I am not a lawyer. I am a mother who has been dealing with this issue since the beginning of time (or at least early 2000).  Back then, the DTC was given to some people with diabetes and denied to others. Eventually, it was given to those using insulin pumps but not those on injections. Finally after a long battle, a lot of letters and presentations, this ruling was changed and the discrimination faced by people living with diabetes was removed. (only to resurface in 2018)

The Disability Tax Credit (DTC) is given to people who are unable to perform the “basic acts of daily living” OR who require life-sustaining therapy. While the argument has been made that people with diabetes are not able to perform the basic acts of daily living, the real case has been made that they require life-sustaining therapy.  If they do not take insulin they die. It’s very simple.

So what is the tax credit and why do you want it? Well, it gets you money back on your taxes! Again, I am not an accountant but I think of it as my own extra RRSP or spouse to deduct off of my taxable income.  If you pay in any income tax, you will see a bit more money coming back to you.

If you have no income or very little income, this credit may still be important for you. It may reduce your income to the point that you now qualify for the GST. If you have a child with diabetes, it will mean that he/she now qualifies for a disabled child benefit which adds approximately another $100 to your monthly CTB.

There are still many questions from people who are not sure if they qualify. You can try this short quiz to help you decide. I will also attempt to answer a few questions that come up…

But I’m don’t want to be labeled Disabled.

The Disability Tax Credit? I am not disabled! I don’t want my child labeled this way either.  You are not claiming that you or your loved one is “disabled”.  By applying for this credit, you are stating that you or your loved one requires “life-sustaining therapy” to stay alive. As I have said, no insulin equals no life.

Do children automatically qualify?

Children under 18 years of age who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes do qualify for the tax credit.  It is that simple. The time spent on care by the child and parent is felt to easily total over 14 hours. A signature from your doctor regarding diagnosis will entitle you to the credit.  While reducing your taxable income, this credit will also entitle you to the Disabled Child Tax Benefit as well as the CTB you may already be receiving.

My son is now an adult. Does he still qualify?

Yes, he does.  If he has any developmental issues, this definitely means he qualifies and it should be noted on the T2201.  If he does not have developmental issues, but he still tests regularly, injects or boluses, and intensively manages his diabetes care, then he still requires life-sustaining therapy and meets the time requirements.

I have Type 2 Diabetes. Do I qualify?

This one is a little trickier.  If you are no longer producing any insulin and must take insulin injections multiple times per day or use an insulin pump, then you may qualify for the DTC. If your diabetes is still managed through diet, exercise or pills, you will not qualify. Again, you can go through our quiz to see if you may qualify. 

I don’t know what type of diabetes I have but I take needles. Do I qualify?

Again, as long as you are using multiple daily injections, logging, and testing, you most likely will qualify for the DTC.

Is it true you can’t count recovery time?

I was told that you can’t count recovery from lows.  That is right. You can’t but CRA does recognize that you can make errors in your care.  I have a lengthy list of how time is calculated in accordance with CRA guidelines. If you feel that you do these things, then you should easily qualify for the DTC.

Please remember that your doctor must be very aware of what qualifies as therapy and how you manage your time.  Your doctor now is your key to approval. If he or she understands the time you invest in keeping yourself healthy and tells CRA that, then you will get your tax credit.

To help your doctor understand how much time you spend on your care, you can share with him/her activities logged in the DTC workbook

Why do I care about getting the DTC?

Again, this is a credit that gets you money back on your taxes! I am not an accountant but I have come to think of it as my own extra RRSP or spouse to deduct.  This is an amount that comes off of your taxable income before anything else.  If you pay in any income tax, you will see more money coming back to you.

Even if you have no income or very little income, this credit can still be important for you. It may reduce your income to the point that you now qualify for the GST.  If you have a child with diabetes, remember that it will mean that he/she now qualifies for a disabled child benefit which adds approximately another $100 to your monthly CTB.

Do I have to reapply?

It depends on the person processing your file. Yes, it is that arbitrary.  I have heard of families with two people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes who both applied for the DTC and both were given two different times to reapply.  You could be approved for two years, five years or even for a lifetime.  

Remember the Disability Tax Credit is a tax credit that you receive because you put so much work into keeping yourself of your loved one alive. Life-sustaining therapy is a real part of diabetes.  Injecting, bolusing, testing, calculating is all part and parcel of what keeps us or our loved ones alive. These are not tasks that someone without diabetes has to perform.

If you have any further questions ask your diabetes team, your accountant or contact me and I will do what I can to point you in the right direction.