Tax Time: Medical and Disability-Related Expenses

Tax time is approaching yet again, and there are some disability related tax credits available in Canada, even for people with MCS/ES (some of which I will post below).

There are also tax credits offered to people who need to retrofit their homes for medical reasons:

Renovation or construction expenses – the amounts paid to make changes to give a person access to (or greater mobility or functioning within) their dwelling, when that person has a severe and prolonged mobility impairment or lacks normal physical development.

The costs may be incurred in building the person’s principal residence or in renovating or altering an existing dwelling. These costs can be claimed minus any related rebates such as for goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST).

Renovation or construction expenses have to be reasonable and also meet the following conditions:

– they would not typically be expected to increase the value of the dwelling; and
– they would not normally be incurred by persons who have normal physical development or who do not have a severe and prolonged mobility impairment…

Something that apparently has NOT been accepted, are the renovations required to remove mold in order to make a home accessible for a person with Environmental Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (ES/MCS).

legal justice

Until now.

John Swaigen and Robert Peterson, Staff Lawyers for Ecojustice, write about it here in “A victory for victims of environmental sensitivities or multiple chemical sensitivities” .

Some of our legal victories for Canadians and their environment attract major news coverage. Others, like our work with Varda Burstyn, make less of a splash but are equally as important. Varda Burstyn is an award-winning Canadian author who suffers from Environmental Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (ES/MCS). People with this condition are affected by chemicals most of us don’t notice on a on a moment to moment basis, but which are responsible for major health harms expressed in chronic illnesses and reproductive and neurological disorders.

Mold toxins, along with the various chemicals found in our homes and workplaces, threaten Varda’s health. They make her sick. Medical experts say the best treatment for this condition is to remove materials and products that contain certain chemicals from the home. But these renovations can be expensive. Varda and her husband spent more than $200,000 to make their home a safe environment.

Varda’s Claims Are Denied

After renovating, Varda and her husband applied for tax credits offered to people who need to retrofit their homes for medical reasons. For example: a person in a wheelchair who has wheelchair ramp built to access to his or her home is eligible to receive the credit. But the Canada Revenue Agency rejected Varda’s claims and said the kinds of home alterations needed by people with her disability didn’t qualify for the credit. She told the Canadian Human Rights Commission that this action violated her right under the Canadian Human Rights Act to be free from discrimination on the basis of disability.

On April 24, 2012, Varda won her three-year battle to have a hearing before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. We at Ecojustice were proud to have helped Varda persuade the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the Canada Revenue Agency’s denial of her claims showed evidence of discrimination against her and others with her condition.

The Settlement

Last December, we represented Varda at a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal mediation. Partnering with ARCH Disability Law Centre, we negotiated a confidential settlement that improves Varda’s life and may prevent future discrimination against sufferers of Environmental Sensitivities.

Why We Got Involved

We supported Varda because we believe that access to a safe environment is a human rights issue. We also believe that reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals, especially those found in the home, will protect Canadians. And we are proud that our legal work allowed Varda to claim her victory.

We asked Varda if she could share her feelings with you and she agreed.  …

For Varda’s own comments about the case, please visit the Ecojustice post linked above.

A great deal of gratitude to Varda and Ecojustice for not giving up!

From the Canada Revenue Agency Medical and Disability-Related Information page, here are some possibly relevant expenses we may have that are allowed:

  • Air conditioner – $1,000 or 50% of the amount paid for the air conditioner, whichever is less, for a person with a severe chronic ailment, disease, or disorder – prescription required.
  • Air filter, cleaner, or purifier – the amount paid for a person to cope with or overcome a severe chronic respiratory ailment or a severe chronic immune system disorder – prescription required.
  • Furnace – the amount paid for an electric or sealed combustion furnace acquired to replace a furnace that is neither of these, where the replacement is necessary because of a person’s severe chronic respiratory ailment or immune system disorder – prescription required.
  • Gluten-free products – the difference in the cost of gluten-free products compared to the cost of similar non-gluten-free products. A medical practitioner must certify in writing that the person requires gluten-free food because of celiac disease. For more information, see Gluten-free products.
  • Oxygen concentrator – amounts paid to purchase, operate and maintain an oxygen concentrator including electricity.
  • Oxygen and oxygen tent or other equipment necessary to administer oxygen – prescription required.
  • Water filter, cleaner, or purifier – the amount paid for a person to cope with or overcome a severe chronic respiratory ailment, or severe chronic immune system disorder – prescription required.

There are others that might apply as well.

Of course, to make use of these credits, one must have the income and tax payable to deduct them from. Some of us aren’t so lucky. But, I’ve been told

It is arguable that if one level of government (Canada Revenue Agency) considers these items as valid medical expenses, then another level of government (ODSP) should do the same, and further, ODSP should pay for the items.

I do know that both OW and ODSP have covered air filtration devices and  OW has helped with organic beds (ODSP has not, to my knowledge provided for organic beds and a number of other disability related items, they tend to refer people to cash strapped municipal sources).  It used to be possible to have some of these expenses covered from the CSUMB, but that funding has been eliminated. I do not know of other sources of assistance, or how other provinces or states deal with these expenses.

Sadly, legal action is all too often required, and this can be expensive and exhausting. Bravo to those who have the dedication to fight for our rights!

UPDATE March 2016 (for the 2015 tax year in Canada):

The link for detailed care, treatment and training; construction and renovation;  drugs, medications, and other substances; products, devices, and supplies; services and fees; etc that you can claim as disability and medical expenses has changed and can be found here:

Medical Expenses 2015

Disability-Related Information 2015

I suspect similar claims can be made in the US. If someone reading this can share the appropriate links in a comment, I can add them here.

10 responses to “Tax Time: Medical and Disability-Related Expenses

  1. I was rejected even though I had a Dr.’s letter stating I needed an air purifier & water filter…ODSP said NO…referred me to OW who denied me…so how can I submit a receipt for tax deduction for the air purifier I bought?

  2. Another excellent blog . Linda, and most is true in US too.

  3. WOW – this is awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I am applying for CRA Disability Tax Credits for past 13 years as I have MCS/EI. The tax credit form does not include an other category to add a disability not listed on the form. My DR states that one of the listed boxes must be checked to qualify. Anyone applied successfully to CRA for Disability Tax Credits with MCS/EI? I understand the “loopholes” have been closed and those of us with tis disability do not qualify? Anyone???

    I am a vegan who is on ODSP special diet for celiac and organic. Any tax credits here? THANKS!

    • As far as I understand, these credits are deducted from taxes payable and not refundable credits. When we receive ODSP, we do not pay taxes, hence they don’t really make any difference for us, other than that ODSP should be helping us meet our basic medical/disability needs.

  5. Covid 19 tax credit only for people who qualify for DTC

  6. woops… Covid 19 disabilty payment only for those who qualify for DTC disability tax credit … I was told by my family doctor I would not qualify so she refused to fill out the form for this tax credit… I mentioned this to Dr Kerr at Womens College the doc who dx mcs in me she said if I did not qualify nobody would qualify … she did not offer to fill in the form and I did not have it with me…. trips to Toronto are a calamity. Since I am on ODSP and not working there did not seem at the time to be a pressing reason to go back and get Dr Kerr to fill in the form.
    I am suspecting many or all ODSP MCS recipients do not bother applying for the DTC and now I am thinking maybe we should.
    Even if there is only a remote possibility for future work and tax credits from that work having this credit in place before work would be a good idea and would allow us to part take of one time payouts like the covid one being talked about now.
    Maybe we should make a point of applying … what do other people think? Have you applied did you get it and do you think it is a good idea to be proactive in making the application in case of future employment even part time? Today I read there are other benefits linked to the DTC but first you have to be approved. Thinking of the future… especially for those of use who are young and looking for a real life.

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