Family Caregiver Tax Credit

 

The New Caregiver Credit Benefits Spouses

By Deanna Groetzinger, Vice-President, Government Relations and Policy

For years, caregivers like Lynn Waterman of Winnipeg, who is the spouse of a person living with MS, have been frustrated by not being allowed to claim the caregiver tax credit when filing income taxes. Waterman was unable to claim a credit that would have helped to reduce the amount of tax she owed. Equally frustrating was the fact that the federal government did not recognize her for her vital role as a caregiver.
Things changed for Waterman and others in the spring of 2011 with the federal government’s creation of the Family Caregiver Tax Credit—a credit that caregivers who are spouses will be able to claim. The tax credit is in effect for the 2012 tax year.
The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, people with MS, their caregivers and many other organizations supporting caregivers have long identified the lack of a tax credit for spouses as a significant oversight.
According to the Canadian Caregiver Coalition, unpaid caregivers provide more than 80 percent of care needed by individuals with long-term conditions and contribute more than $5 billion of unpaid labour annually to the healthcare system. Twenty-six percent of Canadians report having cared for a family member or close friend with a serious health problem in the last 12 months; 22 percent of caregivers have missed one or more months of work and 41 percent are using personal savings because of lost income.
For more than five years, the MS Society has pressed the federal government to allow spouses to claim the tax credit. Others joined the MS Society in championing this issue. In fact, a private member’s bill was launched in April 2010, calling for the caregiver tax credit to include spouses. Lynn and Wayne Waterman offered their home for the launch and told news media that they were dismayed that Lynn’s role as a caregiver was not recognized by the government.
While the private member’s bill did not pass, success came in the spring 2011 federal budget, which included a commitment for the new tax credit.
Provinces acted, too. Manitoba led the way with its Caregiver Recognition Act. Nova Scotia has a Caregiver Allowance, while Ontario has promised a Family Caregiver Leave Act. In all cases, spouses were included in the definition of caregiver and are eligible for the benefits. More recently, the Government of Quebec partnered with the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation to develop a $200-million fund to support regional caregiver resource centres.
The MS Society thanks the federal and provincial governments that have acted to recognize spouses for their important roles in providing vital care for their loved ones.
The MS Society is now pressing the federal government to make all disability- and caregiver-related tax credits refundable for people with low incomes—a small step toward better income support for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

 

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