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Canadians can now apply for new dental benefit: here's how

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As of Dec. 1, eligible Canadians can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency to receive funding as part of the first ever federal dental-care program, and as of Dec. 12 applications will open for low-income renters looking to access the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit.

On Nov. 17 the NDP-backed Liberal affordability bill bringing in both the dental-care benefit and rental boost for lower-income Canadians—known as Bill C-31—became law. At the time, the government committed to having the application process launched before the end of the year.

On Wednesday, the federal financial agency briefed reporters on how the system will work for Canadians looking to apply for these benefits, billing the system as "streamlined and user-friendly."

The CRA says it will only take a couple of minutes to apply, because there are some upfront verification built into the system, including checking if your 2021 tax return has been filed.

Here's what you need to know.

WHAT IS THE "CANADA DENTAL BENEFIT"?

For now, the "Canada Dental Benefit" will be offered to children under the age of 12, with an annual family income of less than $90,000, with the amount provided per child per year dependant on family income.

For example:

  • $650 would be provided per child if the family’s adjusted net income is under $70,000;
  • $390 would be provided per child if the family’s adjusted net income is between $70,000 and $79,999; and
  • $260 would be provided per child if the family’s adjusted net income is between $80,000 and $89,999.

The amount offered is the government's "best calibration" of how much funding is needed to cover basic dental care—exams, cleanings, X-rays, and fillings— without much left over, according to government officials who briefed reporters on the program in September.

The first phase of dental care will provide eligible parents or guardians with "direct, up-front tax-free payments to cover dental expenses."

This interim dental benefit is only available for two periods, and parents or caregivers can receive a maximum of two payments for each eligible child.

The first period covers expenses retroactive to Oct. 1, 2022, through to June 30, 2023. The second period will cover dental services the child received between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2024.

If a child's dental care costs more than $650 and the parent or guardian has only applied for one benefit period, they may meet the criteria for an additional payment.

 

HOW TO APPLY FOR DENTAL COVERAGE

Applicants will have two options to access the online portal: either through their CRA "My Account" or through their Service Canada account. For those without access to the online systems, the CRA is setting up a dedicated dental benefit phone line to receive applications.

Either way, those applying will have to make a series of attestations in order to determine eligibility, as well as answer security questions to verify their identity.

For example, parents or guardians making the application will have to confirm:

  • Their child was born on or after Dec. 2, 2010, making them 12 years old as of Dec. 1, 2022;
  • They are currently receiving the Canada Child Benefit as of Dec. 1, 2022;
  • Their child does not have access to private dental care coverage nor are their costs fully covered by another dental program provided by any other level of government;
  • They will have out-of-pocket dental care expenses for which they will use the benefit; and
  • They have filed their 2021 income tax and benefit return.

Applicants can submit to receive this financial support ahead of appointments, but will have to provide proof of eligibility such as contact information for the dental service provider, date of the appointment, and information related to their employer and spouse or partner related to their benefit coverage.

The CRA is highly recommending signing up for direct deposit as the fastest and easiest way to receive this funding, noting that the estimated wait time for payments is five business days if signed up for direct deposit, whereas it could take 10 business days to receive a cheque by mail.

The law has also set up a process for bureaucrats to check eligibility information—including contacting employers—and there could be penalties for those who submit fraudulent claims. The CRA is encouraging those who apply to print and save a copy of their applications as well as any relevant documentation such as receipts, in case verification is needed down the line.

For example, if for some reason a parent or guardian applies for funding in the first period but does not end up having dental care expenses during that timeframe, they will be required to repay that amount and reapply for the second eligibility period.

While only those under 12 years old will get access for now, the government says it remains committed to following through on seeing this stop-gap measure become a fully-fledged national dental care plan by 2025.

WHAT ABOUT THE "CANADA HOUSING BENEFIT" TOP-UP?

A for sale sign outside a home indicates that it has been rented, in Ottawa, on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The other form of federal funding that eligible Canadians can soon access is the one-time $500 top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit. The application process for this funding will launch on Monday, Dec. 12, according to the CRA.

This is a program for low-income renters with adjusted net incomes below $35,000 for families, or $20,000 for individuals who pay at least 30 per cent of their adjusted net income on rent and are paying rent for their own primary residence in Canada.

In order to receive this $500 payment to help cover rent, applicants need to confirm they:

  • Have filed their 2021 income tax and benefit return;
  • Are at least 15 years of age as of Dec. 1, 2022;
  • Are a resident in Canada for tax purposes in 2022;
  • Have their principal residence in Canada as of Dec. 1, 2022;
  • Have paid rent for their own shelter in 2022; and
  • Have paid at least 30 per cent of their 2021 adjusted net family income on rent in the 2022 calendar year.

Applicants need to be ready to provide some basic information such as their address, who they paid rent to and how to contact that person, as well as how many months spent at certain residences if they've moved throughout the year.

Same as with the dental benefit, the CRA is suggesting direct deposit as the fastest and easiest way to receive this funding. The estimated wait time for payments is five business days if signed up for direct deposit, whereas it could take 10 business days to receive a cheque by mail.

Here too, applicants will have to keep any relevant documentation to back up their application in case the CRA comes calling in the next six years to validate their eligibility. This includes tax slips, rental property receipts, and landlord contact information.

Applicants found to be ineligible will be required to repay the benefit. 

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