The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is urging the federal government to reform two of its principal support programs meant to give Canadians living with disabilities and their families tax relief and help them save for the future.
The first is the Disability Tax Credit that helps Canadians by reducing the amount of income tax they must pay. The second support program is the Registered Disability Savings Plan which aims to help people with a disability or their caregiver save for the future by putting money into a fund that grows tax free until the beneficiary makes a withdrawal.
The report makes 16 recommendations aimed at improving both programs. They are divided into short-term objectives to make the process for the two programs simpler and clearer, and a long-term philosophical shift in the way Canada deals with people who are in financial distress but cannot advocate for themselves.
Recommendations include removing barriers that prevent people from taking advantage of the Disability Tax Credit and making enrolment in the Registered Disability Savings Plan automatic for eligible people under 60.
The committee undertook the study after hearing of a sudden spike in the number of Disability Tax Credit applications that had been rejected.
“Complicated eligibility criteria enabled the Canada Revenue Agency to deny access to the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan,” said Senator Judith Seidman, deputy chair of the committee. “Canadians living with disabilities are counting on the government to fix these programs in a transparent way, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
The Committee says there are 3.8 million Canadians living with disabilities, including 1.8 million with severe disabilities.