June 18, 2020
TORONTO, ON – The Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) joins others within the Autism community in expressing concerns over how the federal government is providing financial incentives to disabled Canadians.
The federal government recently announced a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $600 to Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit (DTC) certificate. However, the status of that financial aid is now unclear, as the measure was part of a bill that failed to receive support from opposition parties.
“In theory, using the Disability Tax Credit could allow for the government to more quickly distribute funds to those needing pandemic related support,” said Dr. Jonathan Lai, Director of Strategy and Operations at CASDA. “However, there are fundamental gaps in how disabled Canadians are deemed eligible for this tax credit, meaning that those who could really use the assistance, aren’t going to receive it.”
The Disability Tax Credit assessment process was originally designed for people with physical disabilities, which leads to people with disabilities related to intellectual or cognitive function, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, being rejected at much higher rates. Due to the flaws in the eligibility process, only 40 percent of disabled Canadians are able to access certain programs and benefits that are made available to those receiving the Disability Tax Credit.
Specific issues include the nonrefundable design, a lack of clarity of eligibility criteria and an overly complicated application process.
For example, RDSPs provide a unique benefit in that anyone can contribute on behalf of an individual and it is exempt from most other disability benefits. However, many Canadians with qualifying disabilities are unable to open an RDSP because they don’t qualify for the DTC, even if they do qualify for other provincial disability programs.
“A lot of work has been put forward to the CRA documenting wide-ranging concerns from DTC applicants, current beneficiaries and health providers,” said Dr Jennifer Zwicker, assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. “It is time to follow through on recommended DTC reforms or develop a new policy mechanism for determining eligibility to reduce barriers for Canadians with disabilities.”
CASDA has submitted a letter to the Disability Advisory Committee outlining the concerns with the Disability Tax Credit structure, as well as the organization’s continued commitment to working with the government to address issues with systemic inequities faced by Autistic Canadians.
“Many of us Canadians with mental disorders struggle with finding employment or managing our daily lives at the best of time,” said Corey Walker, an autistic self-advocate. “Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic we need this extra help more than ever, so it’s time for the Canadian government to stand up and expand the DTC criteria, so that all Canadians with disabilities qualify for the tax credit, allowing all of us to access the DTC’s benefits.”
Holly Nash, Social Media and Communications Coordinator
Allison Garber, Communications Consultant