Autism group calls on CRA to make applying for disability tax credit easier
Published Thursday, November 30, 2017 2:49PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 30, 2017 8:25PM EST
A group that represents Canadians living with and caring for those with autism says too many families are having to fight with the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure they can receive the Disability Tax Credit.
Autism Canada says it’s heard from many families who say they have to apply and re-apply for the tax credit for their children over and over again. Even older adults with autism are reporting that, after qualifying for the disability tax credit for years, the CRA is now revoking the credit without warning.
“Our perception is, from speaking with our constituents, that there’s been a more aggressive approach to not just the original application process, but also the review process,” Dermot Cleary, the chair of the board of directors of Autism Canada, told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
“That’s where a lot of people are losing their tax credit status.”
He said his group asked its members to send in their accounts of their fights with CRA, and received more than 140 responses.
“The stories we have heard are frustrating, maddening and, without exception, heartbreaking,” Cleary told reporters in Ottawa Thursday. “Overwhelmingly, they were stories of delays, misinformation, and inconsistency.”
Some families reported that the CRA told them their child was too young to be diagnosed with autism -- even though a medical professional had already made an autism diagnosis. Others have been told that their autism is not enough of a disability for them to be able to complete life tasks.
Many families reported they often had to wait months or close to a year to find out whether they or their child qualified, and often had trouble accessing information about their application through calls to CRA call centres.
Cleary says receiving a tax credit is a two-step process where they need to be diagnosed by doctors first and then again with the CRA before being accepted.
“Part of the problem is the opacity of the process,” he said. “When the forms are submitted to CRA for an initial application-- or upon review--to our experience, we’ve not really seen reasons given other than ‘this person does not qualify’ or ‘does not meet the minimum standard set down by CRA.’ This is despite the fact some of the standards used by CRA have by struck down by the courts.”
Autism Canada says that an autism diagnosis costs a family, on average, $60,000 per year, to pay for the therapy and to access other necessary supports not included in existing social and health services. They say the disability tax credit is “an essential mechanism to help offset that financial burden.”
Once someone loses their tax status, Cleary says families have the option to reapply for the credit, but it comes with the additional cost of another medical examination. In addition, Cleary said many families and adults with autism say the application process for the tax credit is onerous, not user-friendly, and often not even applicable to those with autism.
Autism Canada wants the federal government to review the “procedural inequities” that are hampering access to the tax benefit.
“On behalf of the one in 68 Canadians with autism and their families, we ask that the Canada Revenue Agency urgently amend their unfair and unjust practices,” Cleary said.