The federal government announced this week that it will reinstate the disability advisory committee (DAC), a body disbanded in 2006, to help the Canada Revenue Agency better deliver services to disabled taxpayers.
The move is being made, in part, to address concerns that individuals with disabilities weren’t receiving various disability tax benefits for which they would otherwise be eligible, as well as being denied access to the CRA’s services.
“We are committed to ensuring that all Canadians receive the credits and benefits they are entitled to,” said Diane Lebouthillier, minister of national revenue in a statement. “That is why we are reinstating the Disability Advisory Committee, a forum with a proven track-record of bringing CRA officials together with stakeholders to ensure that Canadians with disabilities’ views are better incorporated into CRA decision-making.”
The committee’s mandate will be to advise the CRA on the needs and expectations of persons living with disabilities; review and provide feedback on the agency’s administrative practices; and make recommendations on how the CRA can enhance quality of service.
The new committee will include 12 members and will meet for the first time in 2018. It will be co-chaired by Frank Vermaeten, assistant commissioner of the CRA and Karen Cohen, CEO of the Canadian Psychological Association. It will also include individuals with disabilities, advocates from disability and Indigenous communities, qualified health practitioners, and tax professionals, the government says.
“I’m ecstatic that they reinstated the committee,” says Peter Weissman, a partner with Cadesky Tax in Toronto, and the former co-chair of the original DAC launched in 2005. Last year, Weissman and mental health advocate Lembi Buchanan sent a letter to the government recommending the committee be reinstated.
The new committee will provide the CRA with feedback on the administration of, among a variety of other measures, the disability tax credit (DTC), an important tax credit for individuals with disabilities, Weissman says.
“The DTC has been administered poorly and it’s really unfair to Canadians, particularly vulnerable Canadians,” says Weissman, who adds that individuals are being denied even when doctors have signed off that their patients are eligible. The process also lacks transparency, Weissman says, with denied taxpayers having inadequate information as to how the decision was reached.
Earlier this year, the Liberal government faced a backlash from health advocacy groups, and in Parliament, when it was revealed that the CRA, due to a change in the interpretation of the eligibility rules, had begun denying individuals with Type 1 diabetes access to the DTC. Currently, advocacy groups are in discussion with the government about this particular issue.
“Most people think of the DTC as just a non-refundable tax credit,” Weissman says, “but what comes out of [being eligible for the DTC] is eligibility for the RDSP and, more recently, due to changes in tax rules around estates, for the new Qualifying Disability Trust [which receives favourable tax treatment relative to most other trusts.]”
Losing eligibility for the DTC, when a taxpayer had previously qualified, means no longer being eligible for those other programs, too, Weissman points out. “The RDSP is a very important [savings] tool for people with disabilities, so losing eligibility to DTC has just a horrendous result.”
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