Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been promoting a series of tax reliefs aimed at helping caregivers and those with disabilities, including a new tax credit.

Addressing the Canadian Cancer Society Flaherty reminded families of a new federal tax credit that came into effect on January 1, 2012. The Family Caregiver Tax Credit will, Flaherty said, assist families in caring for their loved ones.

The credit offers new tax support for caregivers of infirm dependent family members. The 15% non-refundable tax credit on an amount of CAD2,000 will provide tax relief for caregivers of all types of infirm dependent relatives, including, for the first time, spouses, common-law partners and minor children. The credit can be claimed on tax returns for 2012 and beyond.

Flaherty explained: “Our government is committed to supporting Canadian families through our low-tax plan for jobs and growth. We recognize the sacrifices that many Canadians make to care for their loved ones, and the expenses involved in doing so.”

Flaherty was also promoting a number of measures introduced in previous years’ Budgets, designed to provide financial aid to those with disabilities. The 2011 Budget removed the CAD10,000 limit on the amount of eligible expenses a taxpayer can claim under the Medical Expense Tax Credit in respect of a financially dependent relative. According to Flaherty, this, taken together with the Caregiver credit, complement the action taken by the government since 2006 to support persons with disabilities and their families.

These include helping parents and others to save to ensure the long-term financial security of a child with a severe disability through the introduction of the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), and the provision of up to CAD90,000 in direct support to each RDSP through grants and bonds. In addition, eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit has been expanded, enhancing the Child Disability Benefit, and increasing the maximum amount of the Refundable Medical Expense Supplement.

The government has also included provisions to recognize the particular challenges of individuals eligible for the Disability Tax Credit in new tax measures, such as the Working Income Tax Benefit, the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and the Children’s Arts Tax Credit.

It has supported accessible housing for individuals eligible for the Disability Tax Credit through a CAD5,000 increase to the Home Buyers’ Plan limit and the introduction of the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit, and has provided CAD75m over two years for the construction of housing units for persons with disabilities.

Finally, it has created the Enabling Accessibility Fund and provided CAD90m over six years to support community-based projects across Canada that contribute to the capital costs of construction and renovations related to physical accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Mike Godfrey——Washington, USA

24 February 2012