The disability tax credit can be difficult or confusing for its intended recipients to navigate. Here’s a company that specializes in making sense of it, saving families money
“They were so thankful.”
It’s a sentiment often expressed by the clients of Count Smart Inc., and president Barbara Mentus is proud of the work that her company does. “We have lots of stories…probably too many to mention,” she says. An Ottawa business specializing in medical and disability refunds, Count Smart works on behalf of individuals and families seeking to obtain the disability tax credit (DTC), a non-refundable income tax credit available to people living with disabilities, or to their caregivers. Eligibility for the DTC can significantly reduce the tax burden on individuals and families affected with physical or mental challenges, and it can open the door to other federally and provincially associated benefits and credits. With over 15 years of experience, Count Smart has worked with thousands of people to identify and recover missing benefits. Through her work, Mentus has identified a few reasons why parents and caregivers of eligible children are missing out on benefits:
Parents don’t understand the criteria There’s a long list of conditions that can affect one of the basic activities of daily life, which include walking, speaking, hearing, dressing, elimination, vision, feeding and mental functions. However, because of misconceptions and stereotypes about what it means to be a person with a disability, some families fail to recognize their eligibility, which also applies to people who meet a specific level of difficulty with the basic activities of everyday life. “It’s not really about a diagnosis, it’s how a person is affected on a daily basis,” says Mentus. For example, a child with ADHD might need extra support to start and complete basic activities on a regular basis. Though the parent might adapt and develop routines that become ‘the new normal,’ the extra time spent with their child is a part of everyday life, potentially making them eligible.
They might have tried before, and have been denied Doctors aren’t necessarily experts in tax refunds, but it is their professional opinion and medical documentation that supports the eligibility of an individual. The doctor must have the medical records on file to substantiate the claim. If they miss a mandatory section of the paperwork, they forget to submit a part of the medical record, or make any number of other errors, then the application for the disability tax credit can be denied. “We’ll go back to the doctor and ask for the specific details required to strengthen the application, as long as it is in the patient’s medical records,” says Mentus. “[Clients] can’t believe that we get it approved.”
They don’t realize that the tax credit can be applied retroactively Depending on an individual’s situation, the DTC can be applied to earlier tax years, up to a 10-year period. Even some individuals who are receiving benefits might not have maximized the entire full amount of their tax credits. “CRA will never correct to be in your favour,” says Mentus.
They don’t think that they can use the tax credit Because it’s a non-refundable tax credit, an eligible individual needs taxable income to receive a refund. Because of this, individuals without taxable income – for example, a single parent on social assistance – might not apply. However, eligibility for the DTC impacts the amount of money received through the Canada Child Benefit. Another related scenario is one where a grandparent or family member that does have an income is helping with the basic necessities of life, such as buying groceries, helping with the rent or buying clothes for an eligible child. In such a case, the grandparent may be eligible to claim the grandchild’s disability tax credit and receive the refund, quite often, giving that money to the parent as additional support for further therapies that the family may not otherwise been able to afford.
Count Smart offers consultations to individuals and families across Canada who think they might be eligible for the DTC. This initial consultation allows Count Smart’s professionals to determine whether or not to proceed with the process based on the individual’s medical history. Count Smart is only paid for their services when they’re successful in obtaining a refund for the client. Most of the process is done through the mail, with telephone support, and the professionals work on the case until it’s complete, a process that can take up to a year. “We see it through until every cent is issued,” says Mentus. With some refunds in the thousands of dollars, that work definitely makes a difference. “It can be a life-changer,” says Mentus.