There are inequities in income tax, customs duties, and postage rules which discriminate against and/or impose hardships upon Deaf Canadians.
The special needs of Deaf people, such as expensive assistive devices, should be recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency, by the Ministry of Finance, and by Canada Post, who should all then take steps to ensure that Deaf Canadians are not made to suffer financially because of their deafness.
The Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada was one of the consumer organizations that led the successful fight to extend the annual income tax disability deduction beginning with the 1986 taxation year. Prior to that time, the deduction was limited to blind and “bed-ridden” people.
A few years later, the deduction was changed to a non-refundable tax credit. We believe this change is a mistake and that the credit should be made refundable. It is a mistake because a huge percentage of Deaf and disabled people have incomes below the poverty line — thus, they cannot claim the credit on their income tax.
The CAD-ASC reminds the Canada Revenue Agency, the federal and provincial Ministries of Finance, and other disability groups that the rationale for expanding the disability deduction in 1986 was not in order to compensate for the additional living expenses incurred by persons with a disability — that is what the medical expenses deduction is for. The disability deduction was established to recognize the fact that Deaf/disabled individuals do not have full access to quality education and employment; that many government services are not accessible or are accessible only if the disabled individual assumes the burden of extra expenses and/or efforts; and that there is a consequential loss of opportunities for people who have a disability. This rationale provides all the more reason to make the credit refundable.
Medical Expense Deduction
The medical expense credit from income tax is intended to compensate Deaf and disabled individuals for the extra expenses incurred as a result of their disability. It has failed to do so, mainly because of the “percentage” limit imposed against claims and because of the non-refundable nature of the credit. People with disabilities have an income level much lower than the average, and they have a medical expense level higher than the average; the credit as it is currently applied fails to take these inequities into account.
In addition, low-income Deaf consumers in some provinces are required to be on welfare before they are eligible to obtain needed devices and services. This has the effect of encouraging unemployment and dependency upon welfare; thus, the money the government saves by disallowing tax deductions for health expenses ends up being spent many times over on welfare expenses.
Many of the devices required by Deaf people are imported from or purchased in the United States: these include caption decoders, videophones, TTYs, and visual alarms. The CAD-ASC urges that the medical necessity of these devices should be recognized by the removal of all customs duties and federal and provincial sales taxes which are currently being applied against them.
Materials for blind people which are sent through the mails are postage-free. We maintain that this is discriminatory against Deaf people in that Canada Post has recognized only the special communication barriers facing blind people and has ignored or denied those of Deaf people. Audiotapes and braille transcripts for the blind are no different from video/DVDs and Sign language materials for the Deaf; both should be granted postage-free status.
APPROVED: 3 JULY 2015
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
The Canadian Association of the Deaf-Association des Sourds du Canada
606 – 251 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1X3