THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL FINANCE
OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on National
Finance met this day at 9:30 a.m. to study Bill C-462, An Act restricting
the fees charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making
consequential amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act.
Senator Joseph A. Day (Chair) in the
The Chair: Honourable senators, this
morning we begin our study of Bill C-462, An Act restricting the fees
charged by promoters of the disability tax credit and making consequential
amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Act.
This morning, we're very pleased to welcome
Cheryl Gallant, who is the sponsor of this Bill C-462. She is a member of
Parliament, representing the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. Ms.
Gallant, I understand you have some brief opening remarks to explain the
legislation to us. We will proceed with that, and then we often have a
question and answer period following that.
Cheryl Gallant, Member of Parliament for
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, sponsor of the bill: Very good; thank you,
Mr. Chair. I'm delighted to be here before the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance with respect to my bill to restrict the fees charged by
promoters of the Disability Tax Credit.
First what I'd like to do is to give you a
little background and overview of the bill just in case everyone hasn't had
the chance to read it thoroughly. The Disability Tax Credit is a
non-refundable tax credit that is meant to reduce the income taxes a
Canadian suffering from a disability has to pay. In order to qualify, there
has to be a severe and prolonged disability, either physical, mental or both
functions, and there is a maximum amount that can be claimed for the year.
Also, a caregiver can apply on behalf because,
in many circumstances, a person suffering from a disability either does not
have an income or is incapable thereof. It is available to the caregivers.
We have this Disability Tax Credit in
recognition that Canadians living with disabilities have special challenges
and added expenses.
They must, either all of the time or a
substantial part of the time, be unable to perform one or more of the basic
activities of daily living, even with medication or medical devices. Some of
those aspects would include vision, hearing and eating.
There is a wide array of disabilities under the
Disability Tax Credit, and that is largely why there is a great deal of
interest in this.
For the average Canadian suffering from a
disability who would apply for this credit, the maximum federal amount would
have been approximately $7,300 in 2011. That would be a maximum of $7,300
that could be subtracted from their income to calculate the income tax due.
That would have meant roughly a savings of $1,100 in that year.
A number of years ago, the federal government
allowed the disability credits to be retroactive. So, instead of an annual
amount of savings of $1,100, it grew to $10,000 to $15,000 if they qualified
for a maximum of 10 years.
As a consequence of this, there were people who
wanted to help assist those who may not be even know about the tax credit to
apply for it. The experience has been, in a totally unregulated environment,
that the fees can range from 10 per cent, 20 per cent and even 40 per cent
of the Disability Tax Credit. The purpose of this bill is to set some
Further to that, there can be instances — I've
seen instances in my riding — where you have a disability tax promoter who
has provided the service. Their fees have been taken off what the client
receives, and then, subsequent to that, the CRA does an audit and then deems
that the credit was not allowed. In that case, the client has to pay back
the money, but they have great difficulty in finding the company who helped
them out with the application to get the other 40 per cent, 20 per cent, 10
per cent back that was given to them. So that is why we're bringing forth
Actually, more than $20 million is paid out to
the Disability Tax Credit promoters each year, and this legislation will
make better use of the taxpayers' investments by making sure that the money
ends up where it belongs. This is the true purpose the bill: To ensure that
the people for whom this tax credit is meant, Canadians living with
disabilities, receive as much as possible.
So I thank the honourable senators for studying
this bill, and I am open to your questions.
The Chair: Just as a point of
clarification, Ms. Gallant, $20 million a year is the amount of tax that is
not collected by the government as a result of this?
Ms. Gallant: Actually, the amount would be
greater because it's more than $20 million paid out to Disability Tax Credit
promoters, so, in addition to the fees paid out, there are the amounts given
to reducing the incomes for the people suffering from disabilities.
The Chair: When you say "paid out," this is
a tax credit. The person with the disability has to be paying some tax in
order to get the money back.
Ms. Gallant: That's correct.
The Chair: This would be some of the money
that was deducted at source that they get back by virtue of the tax credit.
Am I understanding this correctly?
Ms. Gallant: Yes. It's not
refundable, but, if they do owe tax, then the amount of tax they owe is
reduced. If the person does not have an income, then a caregiver for the
person can apply for this tax credit.
The Chair: That assumes the caregiver has
taxes to pay.
Ms. Gallant: Precisely.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I sit on the
Banking Committee, and we just finished our report on the Registered
Disability Savings Plan program. A number of senators around the table today
also sit on that committee.
My first comment is that the government should
fix what is not working. It cannot have a tax credit on the one hand and a
program that is hard to navigate on the other. Moreover, the government has
not made it its business, as it must, to ensure that the program is easily
navigable. At issue here are people with disabilities who require
professional help — this is also true of the other legislation in question —
and here you are before us with a private member’s bill.
Did the government actually advise you against
simplification and developing a procedure that would be much easier to
administrate? You are making it more difficult to collect fees, but that
does not fix the problem. The process will remain complicated. There is
nothing easy about it. I was also wondering whether it was a refundable tax
credit or a tax credit tied to income?
Ms. Gallant: First, I will answer your last
question. It is a non-refundable tax credit. To answer your further concern
with regard to the complexity, I'd like to point out that for a person
suffering from a disability, part of the form is two pages long. The
questions include first name and initial, last name, gender, information
about the person claiming the amount, and details about the regular and
consistent support provided for food. Those are the types of questions asked
of someone who is a caregiver. In terms of the personal declaration about
the disability, they'd be asked whether there is vision impairment, but the
majority of the form is a medical form that has to be completed by a medical
What is required of the claimant is minimal.
The challenge is that many people who are in the most vulnerable income
level don't regularly have an accountant or a bookkeeper to file their tax
returns. This form has to be completed well in advance of the time that you
have to submit your tax return. Even seasonal tax preparers who pop around
the end of the year or the beginning of a new year in time for the deadline
would not necessarily know to have this form completed, especially if the
disability is not apparent. They won't know to ask you to complete this
form. Furthermore, by the time the deadline roles around for the annual tax
return, it’s too late to apply on the current year's return.
We're not setting up an obstacle as it's fairly
simple to complete. In fact, the staff of many members of Parliament will
help a constituent to complete this. The writing is fairly small so people
who are vision-impaired need help to read the questions being asked. We have
some people who are unable to read because of vision impairment or other
related disabilities. I hope that answers your question.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Not exactly,
because they need to pay taxes to take advantage of the program. They could
fill out the form and put it with their income tax return and the people at
Revenue Canada could make the adjustment appropriately. I don't think
Revenue Canada expects everybody to be an expert in government tax credits.
For example, there is a tax credit of $75 for sports equipment if you have
children. I suppose you have to send a piece of paper to prove you have
bought new skates or skis or whatever. It is the same with this. Why not
send this form with their income tax return? Why do we have to pay $20
million to people to help them with the form that should be validated by
Revenue Canada? That means: Why the bill?
Ms. Gallant: As a consequence, with the tax
reductions our government has put in place over the year that we have
administered, thousands of people have been cut from having to pay income
tax; so people don't necessarily have to pay income tax because their income
doesn't reach that level.
In terms of why the government would not
automatically send out this form, it would not make sense to send it out to
everyone. We would not attach it to the annual return because the form has
to be done in advance with a portion completed by a medical person and a
certificate obtained from CRA. That certificate is attached to the annual
return verifying that the person qualifies for the credit.
Senator Eaton: I think your bill deals
mostly with consultants' fees. Am I correct?
Ms. Gallant: It deals with promoters of the
Disability Tax Credit.
Senator Eaton: Fine. Do they get a fee
regardless of the outcome?
Ms. Gallant: Not all promoters receive a
fee regardless of the outcome.
Senator Eaton: With this proposal, do you
believe that most people with these kinds of disabilities work? Do they get
an income from work, or is it income from a workers' compensation board? Is
it a government income, or is it because they work?
Ms. Gallant: For the people who receive an
income, it would be a taxable income. Any income received that is taxable.
Senator Eaton: Either investment income or
from their work.
Ms. Gallant: Correct.
Senator Eaton: Government programs are not
Ms. Gallant: Any government incomes that
are not taxable would not be qualified as income from which the tax credit
would be deducted.
Senator Eaton: If I have a government
income, some kind of pension, and I also have investment income, does the
government income count as part of my total? Say I get $100,000 a year from
different sources of income.
Ms. Gallant: Some government benefit
incomes are taxable and some are non-taxable. If the income arising from a
government were non-taxable, then the tax credit would not apply to that
Senator Eaton: Thank you.
Senator L. Smith: Ms. Gallant, to put this
in perspective, how many disabled people apply for this tax credit each
year? You talked about paying out $20 million to these promoters. So we can
understand the perspective of this in terms of how many disabled people,
what would be the total value of the tax credits? I'm hearing about the $20
million paid out to promoters of the program, but I'm trying to understand
the context of it. Context is important to support the justification of why
legislation would be created.
Ms. Gallant: I don't have the total amount
paid out or the total amount applied to the Disability Tax Credit. I don't
have an accurate figure on how many people apply, but it has been increasing
substantially each year. This bill is in no way meant to discourage people
from applying for the Disability Tax Credit. We want more Canadians who are
suffering from disabilities to be applying. In fact, by virtue of having
this bill raising awareness about the credit, it is hoped that more people
will know about it and apply.
Senator L. Smith: As a suggestion that may
be helpful to understand the context, what is your market? Because you may
want to know how many people out there are disabled and have that
opportunity. It would then help you promote the ability for the people to
get the tax credit. I think it's important for our committee to understand
the context of the size of the amount, the volume and the numbers so that we
can just put it into perspective.
The Chair: Our researchers from the Library
of Parliament indicate that, in 2013, the total amount of the Disability Tax
Credit was $700 million.
Senator L. Smith: For disability.
The Chair: Disability Tax Credit.
Senator L. Smith: Do we have any numbers on
how many have people have actually applied and are getting this benefit?
Senator Buth: I actually have the numbers.
Canada Revenue Agency receives about 200,000 new Disability Tax Credit
applications each year about, and 9,000 of these applications are received
from taxpayers who use the service of a Disability Tax Credit promoter.
Those are the people we are talking about.
The Chair: That was 9,000 out of how many
Senator Buth: The total was 200,000.
The Chair: Thank you. That was helpful to
put that in context.
Senator Callbeck: Do you have any idea how
many of those 200,000 that apply are accepted?
Senator Buth: I don't have that
The Chair: Is that important, Senator
Callbeck? We could follow up on that with the Library of Parliament.
Senator Callbeck: It's of interest to me.
The Chair: If we could find out about that,
we'll circulate that information to everyone.
Senator Callbeck: I want to come back to
the refundable and non-refundable. The Caledon Institute has said that 30
per cent to 40 per cent of the potential target group actually get this
disability credit. I'm all for this credit because it makes life a little
bit easier for many disabled people, but I am concerned that it's not a
refundable tax credit because the people who don't pay income tax have no
access to this credit at all. Did you give that any thought when you were
bringing in amendments here?
Ms. Gallant: That aspect goes beyond the
scope of my bill. My objective was to ensure that those who do qualify for
the tax credit receive as much as possible.
Senator Callbeck: I know it goes beyond the
scope of your bill, but I was asking if that was something you thought
about, or maybe you agree with the way it is. Do you?
Ms. Gallant: Well, that is an entirely
separate policy decision. I would welcome any of my colleagues in the Senate
or the House of Commons to put forth a proposal. At this point in time, the
goal of the government is to get to a non-deficit position. Once we are
doing better financially, then we can entertain some of these very important
Senator Callbeck: It always has amazed me
that the government has brought in so many non-refundable credits because
for the people who need that money the most, there is no way of access to
these credits at all because they are not paying income tax. Anyway, I
recognize the fact that that's beyond what you are doing here.
It says a prohibition against charging or
accepting more than the established maximum fee. Are you thinking here a
maximum fee of a percentage or of setting a flat amount?
Ms. Gallant: I had thought about applying
the same formula as we would to the different companies, like H&R Block.
There is a set formula, but I felt that it would be better if we had a full
consultation between the people of the groups and the individuals who
benefit, Canadians with disabilities themselves and the promoters and the
different professionals involved with tax preparation. By consulting, we
would have a better formula or a flat rate that could be arrived at,
depending on how much work is involved for each individual case.
Senator Callbeck: You've established
offences and penalties for failure to comply. Can you distinguish the
difference between the offences and the penalties?
Ms. Gallant: Yes. The penalty refers to the
amount of overcharging according to the fee that is set. The promoter would
have to return the overage that they charged. The offence is an added
penalty, so it's actually punishment for incorrectly charging a fee that
goes over the amount.
Senator Callbeck: Those two couldn't have
been combined in any way, could they?
Ms. Gallant: They may have been combined.
It was a matter of progressing through the bill and realizing that just
simply returning the money, the money over and above what is allowed, was
not sufficient. A penalty in addition to discourage such behaviour was
The Chair: Just for honourable senators’
reference, a penalty is referred to in clause 3(2), and a penalty is also
referred to in clause 7. That's what Senator Callbeck was asking about.
Senator Bellemare: Thank you for being
here, Ms. Gallant. I have two issues to discuss. The first is that the
program, if I have understood correctly, mostly benefits seniors who have
become disabled at some point. They may have multiple sclerosis or
degenerative diseases for which they need assistance. Is that, generally
speaking, your clientele?
Ms. Gallant: I really have not done an
empirical analysis of who would benefit more. In fact, the parents of
children living with disabilities have a higher amount that they can deduct
from their taxable incomes than an adult. I did not conduct a survey that
would be able to give you an accurate response.
Senator Bellemare: My question has to do
with the Registered Disability Savings Plan program that Senator
Hervieux-Payette referred to. The Banking Committee studied the program, and
it was our understanding that it serves a somewhat younger clientele, that
is, families with children who benefit from it more so than others do. So,
to some degree, I have trouble understanding your tax credit.
My second question has to do with your formula
of A less B plus C. How did you come up with that formula? Is it a standard
formula for this kind of thing?
Ms. Gallant: That was a standard formula
that the CRA has used in other calculations, but, as I said, when you
actually go to apply the equation, it really is insufficient to provide
enough of deterrence for the promoters to stop from incorrectly charging
Senator Buth: Thank you very much, Ms.
Gallant, for being here. How did this issue come to your attention?
Ms. Gallant: A couple of ways. I go to the
outlying areas of my region every summer. There was an individual whose son
had qualified, but they had qualified and the subsequent payments to the son
had stopped arriving. It turned out that the company was not a legitimate
company. That was my first instance of trying to ensure that the application
was redone and that the son was receiving the credit because it was
More recently, a tax promoter came to town and
was targeting soldiers suffering from PTSD, so they were on the radio, in
the newspapers, saying, "If you suffer from PTSD, you may qualify for
$10,000 or $20,000." At that point, I put the finishing touches on and made
sure that this bill went forth because the military and the veterans already
have people who help them out with their taxes and ensure that they receive
the benefits that they qualify for. It was as a consequence of their trying
to take money from those who have served our country and who deserve more of
whatever they qualify for, as opposed to having somebody feed off them.
Senator Buth: I'm sure there are companies
that do have a reasonable rate, et cetera, but this bill is targeted, then,
at those companies that are abusing the system or going after people who
might be quite vulnerable.
Ms. Gallant: That's correct. So we have
accountants; they are not targeted by this. Accountants have their own
formula for charging. This does not include volunteers. A number of
organizations help seniors with their income tax every year, and then they
see, after having met first-hand with the client, that they may qualify for
this credit. So they will complete the forms and, in the subsequent year or
retroactively, apply for any credits that may have been due to them. The
other aspect is the medical practitioners themselves because they complete
the form on behalf of the client. They are not targeted by this either. They
have their own set of fees.
This is only targeting the organizations that
have no formula, no association, no restrictions whatsoever.
Senator Buth: We have received the bill
from the House of Commons. What kind of support did you receive in the House
of Commons for this bill?
Ms. Gallant: It was unanimous among all
Senator Buth: Can you tell me how similar
the restriction is? My understanding is that companies that fill out tax
forms for people also have restrictions in terms of what they can charge
people. Is your bill similar to that in terms of limiting what companies can
Ms. Gallant: In principle, yes. I did think
about using that formula. As I mentioned before, I wanted to ensure that the
full range of tax preparers, as well as the people who would benefit from
the tax credit, had a chance to give input. On that basis, through the
regulations, the formula will be set.
Senator Buth: I think you already mentioned
that there will be consultation in terms of setting the rate?
Ms. Gallant: Yes.
Senator Buth: So the companies that are
involved in helping people fill out the forms will be part of the
Ms. Gallant: That is correct.
The Chair: Colleagues, we have five other
witnesses after this particular session, and we have two witnesses left on
this session. So, if we could move things along, that would be helpful
because I know the other witnesses are here and ready to go.
Senator Merchant: My concern, first of all,
is that people who qualify for this know about it. Can you tell me how
people find out about this? Maybe these promoters are performing a function
in that they have taken it upon themselves to — I don't know how they get
the names — contact people. Maybe they're an important peg in the system. My
second question is this: How do these promoters — not the regular
accountants, but these other people — get paid? Do they rely on their
clients to pay them, or do they receive the money and keep what they think
is appropriate and give the rest to the disabled person? How does the system
work right now?
Ms. Gallant: It is my understanding that
the money goes to the actual company. They take off their fee, and then the
remainder goes to the client.
In terms of promoting, how do we increase
public awareness? Yes, in this case, the promoters do raise public
awareness. If you are reading the news in the morning, you can see, on an
Internet site, "You may qualify for $10,000. Do you have . . ." and there is
a list of different maladies. So they're increasing awareness.
As far as government goes, in terms of
purchasing advertising or putting commercials on TV, there has been
opposition and outcry over our trying to promote the different measures that
government is taking to make people aware of what is available, but we, as
parliamentarians, with the communication tools we have, can increase
awareness as well.
Senator Merchant: The total sum goes to the
promoter, and he, in turn, turns the money over. That way, the promoters get
paid a hundred per cent for their —
The Chair: We do have a number of promoters
as a next round.
Senator Merchant: Maybe I'll wait, then.
The Chair: They probably could tell you how
Senator Mockler: I agree 100 per cent with
the intent of the bill based on the fact that we must have recipients; the
more they have in their pockets, the better it is.
I have two questions. There are two ways of
looking at regulations. One is a private member's bill, and the other one is
amendments to the Income Tax Act. Why would you not go the avenue of
amendments to the Income Tax Act?
Ms. Gallant: This was the most efficient,
simplest, fastest way that it could be done, in my estimation.
Senator Mockler: My next question is, have
you linked with Revenue Canada to appraise that mechanism that you are
following now as a private member rather than amendments?
Ms. Gallant: I have spoken to the
respective ministers of national revenue, and they're supportive of the way
I have put forth this legislation.
The Chair: Colleagues, on your behalf, I
would like to thank Member of the House of Commons Cheryl Gallant very much
for being here. You are welcome to stay on, have a seat next to Senator
Gerstein and hear the other comments that will be made. We will not be
proceeding, in any event, with clause-by-clause consideration today. It's
not our custom to proceed immediately clause by clause. I expect we will do
that tomorrow evening at our meeting, subject to how we make out in the next
round with all of the witnesses.
By video conference from Irricana, Alberta,
which is new to me, we welcome Carmela Hutchison, President and Member at
Large on the Executive Committee of the Council of Canadians with
Disabilities. In Ottawa, we welcome Dr. Karen Cohen, Chief Executive
Officer, Canadian Psychological Association; Akiva Medjuck, President,
National Benefit Authority; Dr. Paul Okorofsky, Director of Client Care and
Partner, The Disability Benefit Group; and Shawn Anthony, Senior Manager,
We'll begin with Carmela Hutchison, by video
conference. If you have introductory remarks, the floor is yours.
Carmela Hutchison, President and Member at
Large on the Executive Committee of the Council of Canadians with
Disabilities, Disabled Women's Network of Canada: Thank you very much
for asking me to appear today. Irricana, Alberta, is halfway between Calgary
and Drumheller. We are speaking from both organizations in support of the
People with disabilities should have their
rightful entitlements protected from unfair fees charged by financial
promoters. There is a series of recommendations that go beyond the narrow
scope of this bill. I want to add them because they are addressed in some of
the questions from honourable senators.
Basically the Disability Tax Credit has also
become the gateway for determining eligibility for a variety of benefits, so
we must ensure unencumbered and fair access. The Disability Tax Credit
becomes more commonly used, so there's a need to review the forms and
processes for establishing eligibility. We recommend the removal of barriers
for people living with mental health disability in the section entitled
"Mental functions necessary for everyday life," which has changed markedly
from previous years. It actually makes it harder for people with mental
health disabilities to qualify for the program, which in some cases might
increase the usage of disability tax promoters if they were having trouble
qualifying. Addressing the issues proposed by people with episodic
disabilities as a criterion does not help to account for the waxing and
waning of symptoms within an overall picture of disability.
CCD and the Disabled Women's Network of Canada
believe that disability organizations should be supported as part of
Minister Finley's interest in social financing to assist people to complete
applications for the Disability Tax Credit, the Canada Pension Plan
Disability Benefit and other relevant government programs. The Disability
Tax Credit should be made refundable so those who do not have taxable income
but experience additional costs related to their disability can have access
to that benefit.
Now that the Disability Tax Credit has multiple
purposes, eligibility should be reconsidered in relation to those who would
be eligible for these other benefits. The Government of Canada needs to make
a broader review of the tax measures for people with disabilities to create
greater access and fairness. Streamlined processes and strategies would
allow people to have greater access to programs and clear policy forms
available online that can be directed to increased health benefits and
programs for disabled people.
I want to thank the CRA. When we appeared
before the parliamentary committees, we talked about the fact that the form
for the Disability Tax Credit could not be saved. Please make the forms for
the CPP Disability Benefit, the Disability Tax Credit and other federal
government forms, wherever possible, savable so that when people with
disabilities are filling them out, they can come back to them in a
subsequent session. I saw that happen with the Disability Tax Credit, and so
I thank the Government of Canada for listening to and accepting that
Review the list of other qualified
professionals who can sign a Disability Tax Credit application. Prohibit
billing above a set fee for forms prepared for any provincial, federal or
municipal government program either by professionals or by for-profit
companies. In addition to the fees charged by the rest of the panelists
around this table and other Disability Tax Credit promoters, medical
professionals often charge prohibitive fees for filling out medical reports.
They can be in the hundreds of dollars. We need to protect people from
exploitation and outright financial abuse by ensuring some standards for
industry promoters and financial providers who are trying to work with
people with disabilities.
We support the intent of Bill C-462 and agree
that people with disabilities should have their rightful entitlement
protected from unfair fees. The Disability Tax Credit is a critical issue
for people with disabilities as it has become the base for determining
eligibility for a variety of benefits. We also encourage the government
because determining eligibility for the Disability Tax Credit can be
complex. Inequity exists because it is much easier to provide evidence of
physical or sensory disability than it is to provide evidence of cognitive,
learning, intellectual or other mental health disability.
In some instances, the cost of the diagnosis is
considerable. In other instances, access to professionals able to make this
determination is limited. The Disability Tax Credit in its current iteration
has created significant barriers for people living with mental health
disabilities in the section entitled "Mental functions necessary for
everyday life," which has changed markedly from previous years.
The reality is that the definition and
understanding of "disability" is always changing. Medical conditions are
also changing and emerging as new discoveries are made. It is recognized
that some disabilities are episodic in nature. As the Disability Tax Credit
becomes more commonly used, there is a need once again to review the forms
and the process for establishing eligibility.
The Disability Tax Credit was initially
designed as a tax fairness measure recognizing that people with disabilities
have additional disability-related expenses. Eligibility is now the
determinant for accessing other benefits and programs, such as the
Registered Disability Savings Plan, the Child Disability Benefit and the
Working Income Tax Benefit for people with disabilities, and the Disability
Accommodation Benefit in the Income Tax Act. For these reasons, an industry
has emerged to assist people with disabilities to complete the forms for the
Disability Tax Credit and other benefits.
It is recognized that the support, while
necessary for some, comes at a significant cost. A disabled woman from
Ontario observed that any percentage fee is unfair, even 10 per cent, which
initially seems reasonable. It is a significant cost if the back benefits
are only $10,000 and, after $1,000 or a 10 per cent fee is paid, the money
is the only money left for many expenses that we as people with disabilities
have, or it may be that person's only lifetime security.
Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities,
a CCD member organization, helps people to complete their forms as part of
their general form completion service, which is free. They also help people
with disabilities write appeal letters if they are denied.
Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities
has heard of at least two companies offering a fee for service to help
people get backdated Disability Tax Credit. They charge 10 per cent if they
are successful and nothing if they are not, to their knowledge. Saskatchewan
Voice of People with Disabilities —
The Chair: Ms. Hutchison, I am starting to
notice that the time is going to be running out on us. I wonder if you could
sum up your comments so we could get to hear from the other four witnesses
who are sitting here and then get to a question and answer session from the
10 or 12 senators who are sitting here waiting.
Ms. Hutchison: Absolutely. Basically, I
think that the bulk of the recommendations were the main things that we
really wanted to voice ourselves on. I think also that one of the things we
would look at is every person with a disability of a year's duration who
either has CPPD and/or provincial benefits should automatically be qualified
for the Disability Tax Credit.
The requalification period for the Disability
Tax Credit should be eliminated. A person's condition is unlikely to improve
due to the serious and long-term nature of the disability. People understand
their need to report changes in disability and similarly are used to
reporting changes in their eligibility. Such reporting can also be monitored
through their tax filing or other regular spot checks done by relevant
government departments. Those measures would create the time for direct
patient care, reduce medical costs, decrease administrative costs through
decreased reporting and existing monitoring, which is already in place, and
reduce the number of times a person with a disability would need to seek a
costly service for receiving the Disability Tax Credit, minimizing their
risk for financial exploitation.
We again want to thank and support Ms. Gallant
for bringing forward this bill on behalf of disabled Canadians.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms.
Hutchison. Thank you for letting us know where Irricana is located.
We will now go to Dr. Cohen, who is the Chief
Executive Officer of the Canadian Psychological Association.
Dr. Karen R. Cohen, Chief Executive Officer,
Canadian Psychological Association: Thank you, senators, for the
invitation to join you today to talk about Bill C-462.
The Canadian Psychological Association is the
national association for psychology in Canada. There are about 18,000
licenced practitioners of psychology in Canada, making us the country's
largest group of regulated and specialized mental health care providers.
Psychologists are designated health practitioners who can complete the
Disability Tax Credit certificate on behalf of patients with disability
related to mental functions.
The intent of this bill is to help ensure that
consultants don't make promises of eligibility they cannot guarantee, don't
charge people to apply for it when they're clearly not eligible and don't
charge people inordinately, even if they are deemed eligible. These are
honourable goals of which the CPA is entirely supportive.
I would like to provide the committee with some
background today on how the tax credit was most recently revised and
highlight some of the issues raised about the complexity of the application
process at that time, particularly as concerns disability related to mental
Some 10 years ago, I was appointed to the
national advisory group on disability called the Technical Advisory
Committee, which advised the Ministers of Finance and National Revenue on
disability tax measures that led to the current system we have today. I was
tasked with leading the mental functions subcommittee that took on reviewing
the eligibility criteria for the tax credit related to mental functions,
disorders that historically had been challenging to assess for eligibility.
Our subcommittee work resulted in important
legislative and administrative changes to how eligibility for the Disability
Tax Credit, the DTC, is assessed. Despite these changes and the best efforts
of consumers, health care providers and the CRA, the assessment of persons
with impairments in mental functions for the purposes of establishing
eligibility for the DTC continues to be quite complex compared to the
assessment of more straightforward impairments in physical function.
It was for this reason that in 2007 I authored
a short article that attempted to review and clarify some of the eligibility
issues for health professionals who fill in the forms on behalf of their
patients with mental health conditions. I also drafted new wording to the
form itself that I felt would result in fairer assessments. Unfortunately,
this wording was not entirely applied.
With a lack of clarity come definitions and
criteria that may not be readily understood or appreciated by the busy
health care practitioners who fill out the forms on behalf of their
patients. Further, the lack of clarity among patients and practitioners may
inadvertently create the market for promoters. If you make the process
simpler and clearer, the market for promoters may be reduced, as well as the
ability of consultants to take advantage, economic or otherwise, of people
applying for the DTC in good faith.
The Canadian Psychological Association supports
this bill because excessive fees charged by promoters should be restricted,
especially when they, too, may involve any misunderstanding of eligibility.
However, it is important to address what might be the underlying cause
driving the use of promoters. If it is indeed the lack of clarity for
taxpayers and health practitioners, then the criteria and certificate
themselves need to be revised to enhance the fairness of assessments.
There's one more issue I would like to cover
briefly. Last year's budget made changes to HST and GST attached to reports
and services for non-health care purposes. As per Budget 2013, services
provided solely for non-health care purposes, even if supplied by health
professionals, are not considered to be basic health care and are not
intended to be eligible for sales tax exemption. It goes on to state that
taxable supplies would include reports, examinations and other services
performed solely for the purpose of determining liability in a court
proceeding or under an insurance policy.
The difficulty with this budget change is how a
non-health care purpose will be defined. Psychological services in Canada
are not funded by public health insurance plans, which means that much of
the assessment and treatment involves private insurance and establishing
eligibility for benefits under this coverage.
The CPA is quite concerned that this change
will lead to unintended consequences for Canadians seeking mental health
treatment and that Canadians will now have to pay taxes on some
psychological services that were once exempt, services that are already
woefully inaccessible to Canadians who need them.
Further, more than a year after tabling the
budget, our profession is still awaiting clarification from government on
this key issue. There have been more than 12 months of uncertainty with
regard to how these transactions should be treated for tax purposes, which
is harmful to patients as well as to psychologists across Canada.
Thank you for your time. I am a happy to
respond to any questions.
The Chair: Thank you for taking the
opportunity to bring up that point from the budget with regard to HST and
As a point of clarification before I go on to
Mr. Medjuck, when you fill out the mental health or physical health form as
a medical practitioner, is it common you would help fill out the tax form at
the same time, or do you just leave that to somebody else?
Dr. Cohen: I certainly wouldn't want to
speak for every health care practitioner in the country, but my
understanding is the T2201 form the health practitioner fills out on behalf
of their patients is only that. It does not in any way help them prepare
their taxes, but you require the certification of a licenced health care
practitioner that the person actually meets the eligibility criteria, such
that their disability is severe and prolonged, that they're unable to do
something or it takes an inordinate amount of time.
The Chair: The application form for the
Disability Tax Credit is a separate form that you are not involved with?
Dr. Cohen: No. There is a section on the
form that must be filled out by the health care provider. That's what I'm
The Chair: Not the rest of it?
Dr. Cohen: No.
The Chair: Thank you. Mr. Medjuck.
Akiva Medjuck, President, National Benefit
Authority: Thank you. My name is Akiva Medjuck, Founder and President of
the National Benefit Authority. Thank you for the opportunity to appear
before this committee to discuss Bill C-462.
Launched in 2008, the National Benefit
Authority is the largest provider of tax advisory services to disabled
Canadians and has helped over 10,000 individuals to navigate the complex
Disability Tax Credit process. We employ more than 120 people in over 12,000
square feet of space to serve our clients across Canada.
The Disability Tax Credit is an important
program. Unfortunately, many potential beneficiaries are not aware of its
existence. The National Benefit Authority spends more than $1.5 million
every year raising public awareness. We receive over 1,500 inbound calls per
day. About 40 per cent of our inquiries are from word-of-mouth referrals. A
quarter of our business is from individuals who first attempted to apply for
the credit on their own.
I would like to emphasize that the NBA, the
National Benefit Authority, does not engage in cold calling and is selective
with respect to its clients; we do not claim disabilities when the client
We do not hide our engagement terms from our
clients. The process is fully explained to every prospective client, and our
contingency fee is clearly disclosed. Our one-page client agreement is in
plain language, and we do not engage in high-pressure sales tactics.
Our 30 per cent contingency fee applies only to
current and past tax credits recovered by our clients. In typical cases, our
clients receive credits for five to ten future years additionally. We
currently seek no payment for those future credits. As a result, our fee as
a percentage of the total credit received by our clients is substantially
lower than 30 per cent.
In addition, obtaining the DTC also makes our
clients eligible for thousands of dollars’ worth of additional benefits from
a number of other grants and programs. The RDSP is one of these programs
that is only unlocked with eligibility for the DTC. The NBA does not charge
for these additional benefits received for our clients, but without help
from companies like ours, thousands of Canadians would not be receiving
In the Senate debate, it was suggested that the
application process is a simple two-page form. However, as we all know,
taxation issues are, by their nature, complicated, and the DTC is no
exception. Because the DTC is a non-refundable tax credit, the disabled
individual or supporter must have paid income tax to receive the credit. The
DTC allows a claim to be made against taxes in the current year and
retroactively 10 years. Divorce, bankruptcy, relocation and other
life-changing events make the process more complicated. On top of the tax
analysis, there is a medical form that can be a challenge for doctors who
are not familiar with the DTC process. What's more, many doctors are not
paid for completing the form. Finally, if there are any errors in the
application or if the CRA requests additional information, strict deadlines
must be met or else the entire application is thrown out.
Let us understand, what do the fees that our
clients pay us cover? What do they cover? Our advertising budget, and I
mentioned over $1.5 million a year; explaining the program to potential
clients; reviewing in detail the client's tax and medical information going
back 10 years; identifying relatives who might be eligible if the client has
not paid taxes; addressing complications in the client's life that have an
impact on the tax aspect of the application; dealing with clients' doctors,
who are often unfamiliar with the DTC paperwork or the criteria for
approval; submitting the materials and monitoring the application process;
working with clients to collect additional medical and tax information to
meet the needs of CRA. The National Benefit Authority spends approximately
three months compiling the claim and another three months monitoring and
assisting with applications.
This is a complex process. Karen Nelson,
President of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Ottawa, recently
appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce
and outlined a template for exactly what would need be done to help people
access the Disability Tax Credit. Her prescription included staff to work
with the client at every stage, "finding doctors, collecting past medical
records, attending doctors' appointments, educating doctors on filling in
the forms, helping clients to complete their self-reports, keeping clients
informed of the process and helping with appeals." She argued these services
were needed due to the DTC's complexity.
These services are very similar to what the NBA
provides its clients except we also undertake the intricate tax preparation
issues. Our fees fall within the accepted range for similar professional
advisory services, such as lawyer contingency fees, SR&ED refunds, EI
refunds and property tax reassessments. We accept the risk that months of
our work for a client may go uncompensated, and, in return, we ask for 30
per cent of the retroactive credit.
While Bill C-462 was designed to "protect
disabled Canadians," instead it will likely reduce public awareness and
force families to deal with the intricate process on their own. Advisers
will focus on cases that require the least amount of work — clients with
high incomes who pay enough taxes to claim the credit. Canadians with lower
incomes, to whom the funds are even more important, will be left to fend for
There are better ways to address the concerns
that have been raised, and we have offered our suggestions in our
submission. For example, when the issue of contingency fee was raised in
relation to SR&ED program, the government launched a study before deciding
to reject limits on contingency fees, recognizing that they were important
for smaller companies. This provides a commonsensical precedent.
In addition, we recommend that the issue of
fees and related issues should be addressed within the legislation rather
than in regulations crafted later on by officials.
In closing, should Bill C-462 restrict the
ability of organizations such as ours, the National Benefit Authority, to
represent clients, many qualified and deserving Canadians will not receive
this benefit. Canadians with disabilities need to have someone in their
corner with the expertise and resources necessary to represent their
Thank you, and I will be pleased to answer your
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Medjuck. That was
clear and succinct, and we appreciate you outlining your position.
Dr. Paul Okorofsky, Director of Client Care and
Partner, The Disability Benefit Group: Thank you very much, senators,
for inviting me to the committee meeting today.
A lot of what I was about to say has been very
well covered by Mr. Medjuck regarding the complexities and things like that,
so I will do a little dancing around my prepared remarks so they are not
redundant to what you've already heard.
One of my big concerns was the impetus for the
bill and how it was described when it was presented at the House of Commons
and some of the comments prefacing the bill from Ms. Gallant:
. . . aggressive tactics employed by
some providers . . .
. . . There may be legitimate companies
doing this work. Unfortunately, it is the less scrupulous operators
that have identified the need for the legislation I am proposing
today. . . .
Some consultants have even taken the
step of employing in-house medical practitioners . . .
. . . I want to see increased
protection for disabled Canadians from the predatory practices of
some disability tax credit promoters, on the one hand, and also
contribute to a fair, functioning marketplace for those who do wish
to use the services of a disability tax credit promoter.
This indicates to me that there may be a need
for guidelines or regulations of conduct for tax credit consultants rather
than just an arbitrary setting of fees. Unfortunately, the bill does not
really address any of these concerns. Other than a formula for penalties, as
you heard, the bill does not provide even a suggestion of what these rules
or regulations should contain.
I was informed by Ms. Gallant that specifics
were not inserted in the bill so that everything could be worked out
afterwards in a consultative manner. I find this disturbing because I have
no idea whether my firm should support the legislation or fight against it.
I suspect this may also have been true of many MPs and senators during
debate on the bill. While watching and listening to the debates in the House
of Commons and the Senate, no one could question the validity of the bill
because there is really nothing in it. The unanimous support for the bill
was because it was a bill for the disabled, and you can't vote against a
bill for the disabled.
Many, however, touched on a recurring theme
that is not addressed by Bill C-462. There was concern for many that the
process was not easy and that the CRA was not nearly as helpful as they
profess. They referenced the cutbacks at CRA, the closing of service
counters and how difficult it was for people to obtain information and
manage the application process.
There is also reference to the notion that the
legislation will contribute to fraud prevention. If any disability
consulting firm is suspected of being involved in fraudulent claims, then a
proper and thorough investigation should be performed and, if substantiated,
dealt with criminally. Dishonest people will always find a way to manipulate
According to Webster's dictionary, a "promoter"
is described as a person or organization that helps something to happen,
develop or increase. If that is the definition used here, then I'm not
offended. However, I suspect that the reference here is more akin to that of
promoters selling worthless stocks or swampland in Florida. We firmly
believe that "advocate" is a more accurate term or definition of what we do.
Our goal is to inform and educate the public
about the Disability Tax Credit. A vast majority of the inquiries we receive
are from Canadians who were not aware that the program existed or from
disabled who have already been previously denied when they've done it on
their own. We perform a lengthy interview with potential clients to
determine if they actually have disabilities, if there is a reason to make a
claim. Many, after finding out how it works, decide to do it on their own,
and we wish them well. We also tell them that if they have a problem down
the road, they can call us later. We take our responsibility seriously and
try to ensure that claims are filed only for those who are truly disabled.
If we get an enquiry that doesn't allow us to
go back retroactively and apply a fee, we often provide that person with the
CRA website, tell them what forms to download, take it to their doctor and
what the doctor needs to do to complete it. None of the services we provide
results in a fee or a cost to the claimant unless we have been contracted to
assist them, the DTC certificate is approved and they receive a retroactive
benefit for their claim.
These benefits are sent directly to the
disabled person or their caregiver. We then bill the claimant for our fee.
As I said, CRA does not provide anywhere near the help or advice that is
being claimed. There is no continuity regarding phone inquiries from the
general public. It is virtually impossible to get through to anyone in the
disability claims department or to speak to the same representative for
follow-up inquiries. Often, the various agents give you conflicting answers
to the same question. Talk about confusing and frustrating. We receive
numerous calls and emails from clients stating that a Revenue Canada agent
has told them that they should not be using a consultant, that the process
is easy and that they are there to help them every step of the way. I
received two emails last week after receiving the invitation to come, and I
quote the first one: "I was advised by an agent with Revenue Canada that I
should not be using your services and that, in fact, there is legislation
they are passing in regard to this."
The second one states: "I called the
government. The lady pretty much told me that my daughter will probably not
get it since ADD is not recognized as a major disability. The lady was
basing this info on personal experiences. This, I thought, was extremely
inappropriate considering they do not know my daughter nor how much she does
struggle every day."
Additionally, many completed forms are subject
to a second questionnaire being sent directly to the doctor, ostensibly for
more information, often regardless of the doctor's original description of
the patient's limitations. Unfortunately, it appears that the decision to
send this inquiry lies with the CRA employee, not with a qualified medical
professional after reviewing the form. As well, most often, a generic
questionnaire is used for each category of impairment that is totally
unrelated to the doctor's notes.
A very similar questionnaire will be sent for a
child with a claim of ADHD/ADD/OCD as they send for an adult suffering from
schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, two vastly different situations. A recent
T2201 DTC sent to the CRA on behalf of client contained the following
diagnosis and description from the doctor: "Parkinson's disease, Polymyalgia
Rheumatica, back pain pattern 4, walking impairment related to severe pain
in back and legs. Walks 50 feet with walker and then must sit and rest for
considerable time to reduce pain." The doctor received a secondary
questionnaire. I'm not sure how much clearer he could have been. There are
numerous examples of this. We get them every day; Mr. Medjuck will agree to
We speak directly to medical practitioners in
the course of assisting clients with claims. Many complain that the
descriptions and examples of the types of impairments that would qualify a
patient for the DTC are quite vague. Too often, I hear, "It doesn't matter
what I put in the form; the CRA is going to send another letter." Doctors
are upset that their professional opinions are being questioned with a
generic form, not specific inquiries related to the patient from a qualified
medical practitioner. Several, including one on Friday, stated that they are
concerned that their provincial licensing boards will investigate them if
they sign too many forms.
The complexities of the Disability Tax Credit
and the way it is being and handled go far beyond the scope of what we can
discuss this morning. We agree that some guidelines for code of conduct for
disability tax consultants need to be put in place, and we would be more
than happy to assist in accomplishing that. I thank you for your time.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr.
Okorofsky. For someone who thought most of his points had been made, you
found some new ones. We thank you for that.
Shawn Anthony, Senior Manager, TaxWise Inc.:
Good morning, honourable senators. My name is Shawn Anthony. I'm a senior
manager at TaxWise Inc. We would like to thank the committee for inviting us
to appear to address this very important bill. We proudly support Bill
C-462. We share with you the desire to increase protection for disabled
Canadians from the practice of disability tax promoters whom this bill
addresses. Our intention here today is to, in part, inform the committee of
the state of the marketplace as it pertains to Bill C-462 and to make
recommendations relating to the bill and its potential impact on consumers.
Our recommendations include making the maximum
fee the long-standing industry standard 30 per cent, curbing unethical and
misleading advertising practices and mandating transparency by addressing
To tell you about TaxWise and who we are,
TaxWise is a family-run business, and we've been operating for more than 23
years. We've proudly been helping Canadians who manage medical conditions
and disabilities. TaxWise has earned the respect of dozens of associations
and thousands of veterans, as well as hundreds of communities across this
country, as trusted advisers. TaxWise is also actively engaged in financial
literacy by providing free seminars offering tax advice across the country.
Unlike many of these disability tax promoters that Bill C-462 aims to
address, TaxWise is a specialty accounting firm, with educated, long-tenured
accountants. We deal with all facets of income tax legislation, specializing
in disability tax credits and medical expense credits. In fact, we explore
more than a dozen credits that potentially apply to a medical condition
and/or a disability. This is compared to the promoters, who often only
pursue the Disability Tax Credit and the caregiver credit. TaxWise does not
charge over the industry standard contingency fee, regardless of how many
times they have to do an appeal. TaxWise has never had a doctor on staff to
write a disability tax certificate and strictly adheres to the advertising
model that has been outlined by the public accountants association of
Canada, which basically means that you will never see a dollar sign or
dollar amount on any advertisement that TaxWise does.
From the marketplace, we have learned of the
following activities by these cottage industry disability tax promoters:
Throughout the marketplace, some of these companies have built a reputation
of charging beyond the standard contingency fees, all the way up to 40 per
cent, or charging industry standard 30 per cent plus auxiliary
administrative fees and insurance fees. These insurance fees are ensuring
the company gets paid even if the campaign is unsuccessful. They have also
earned a reputation for unethical advertising practices, including, "If you
have a disability, you may qualify for up to $40,000."
This is misleading to the consumer. There is no
disclaimer stating that those are unrealistic expectations and that the
refunds and credit retrievals over $20,000 are indeed anomalies.
They are also lacking in transparency. Some of
these cottage industry companies have required the client to sign a
confidentiality agreement, unbalancing the relationship between consumer and
We believe that from conflict comes growth.
Here is what we suggest to address these behaviours: Thirty per cent
contingency-based fees have been the industry standard for many accounting
companies for many years, including KPMG and Ernst & Young. While 30 per
cent has always been considered the industry standard, it must now be
explicitly so. By that, the 30 per cent industry standard should by the
maximum percentage allowed to be billed by any company doing medical and
disability tax adjustments. Independent research from the Canadian Institute
of Chartered Accountants, CICA, suggests that accounting firms applying
contingency-based billing typically charge 58 per cent of what the consumer
would be charged if they had been charged by the hour.
Honourable senators, please protect the
consumers by demanding that advertisers justify the cash amount the claimant
would receive in the advertisement. As an example, if the company
advertises, "If you have a disability, you can get up to $40,000," mandate
the advertiser to outline the circumstances in which the recipient could
receive the $40,000. At the very minimum, the advertiser should state what
percentage of their clients are typically awarded this amount. Most of all,
we believe this legislation needs to be balanced, heavy enough to protect
Canadians, but light enough not to hinder the access to professional skilled
advocacy. We are privileged and honoured to have the opportunity to speak
here today about Bill C-462, which will hopefully protect our most
vulnerable community members, without compromising the access they require
to obtain professional, educated and experienced advocacy.
We welcome all questions. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr.
Anthony. Colleagues, we have quite a list of senators who have indicated an
interest in asking questions. I would ask you to keep your question very
succinct and direct it to the witness you would like to have answer.
Senator L. Smith: Mr. Medjuck, maybe you
could help me. I'd like you to walk through a typical case. Can you do a
précis, start to finish, so that the members around the table can clearly
understand how it works? Outline pitfalls and the plusses and the negatives,
if you would.
Mr. Medjuck: The claim would generally
start, and I would say we have a 60-40 role, which means 60 per cent of our
clients, if they are online, would type in a word, for example, "disability"
or "depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's," et cetera. Our ad, which we pay for
on Google, would come up on the side of the screen with our phone number.
That is one way they come to us.
The other 40 per cent of our clients come to us
by word of mouth. One of our tens of thousands of successful clients would
tell their friend or family member, who would then call us.
Our office is based in Toronto, where we have,
as I mentioned, over 120 employees. They would call in to our call centre,
where we have approximately 30 employees who answer the phones, and they
would discuss their claim with a call centre representative.
Just to clarify, the National Benefit Authority
does not decide who is eligible or not eligible. If someone calls us up and
says they have a paper cut, we are going to tell them this may not be the
best application for them; maybe they should try the fitness credit or
something. But if somebody says they have anxiety or whatnot, we go through
the process with them. We will take their information down along with their
disability. We then send them three forms. We send them a one-page, very
clear agreement between us and them, which clearly outlines our contingency
fee. The other document we send them is a T1013 form, which is a form they
sign that authorizes us access to their CRA online account and allows us to
be a representative for them. The third page we send them is a questionnaire
that we created to help us help the client to formulate their disability on
paper. How is their disability affecting them?
Interestingly enough, the Disability Tax Credit
really has nothing to do with the diagnosis. I will give you an extreme
example. If someone was dealing with schizophrenia, their life was falling
apart, they only went to their family doctor and never went to a
psychiatrist for a formal diagnosis, very possibly they would be eligible
for the Disability Tax Credit when they took these forms to their doctor.
The reason being is because it does not depend upon diagnosis; it depends on
the symptoms. How is it affecting your day-to-day life? This is the
questionnaire we send them.
In addition, I would say probably 10 days after
we mail this out, we call them to follow up. Is there anything we can help
you with, such as the questionnaire? We encourage them to send the papers
back. The reason behind this is very simply, in that in dealing with people
with disabilities, keeping the process going many times is a challenge. They
lose the forms; they can't find the forms; they'll send back one out of the
three forms, et cetera. There is a tremendous amount of hand holding that
goes on throughout the process.
When they send the forms back to us, we have a
separate department wherein if there is any missing information — whether it
is a doctor's fax number, a birth date, a social insurance number, et cetera
— they send the documents back to us. Once that happens, we have a document
processing department. Our documents are not kept in paper copy; they are
kept within our databases by being scanned in.
Then the application goes to our benefit
specialists, who do a number of things. First, they will send the Disability
Tax Credit to the client, the actual form, and they will walk them through
it. They have to see their doctor, and they will help the patient
communicate with their doctor. As we've heard in this committee, many
doctors are extremely frustrated by the process, so they will work with the
doctor to get these forms back.
Second, we also review their tax information. I
would say most of the time, the person with the disability, as we've
mentioned, hasn’t paid sufficient taxes. So we have to ask them, "Do you
have a family member that's been supporting you financially?" The financial
supports include food, shelter and clothing. Then we have to go through the
process with the family member, getting them authorized and reviewing their
Once we get all the information back from the
doctor, it goes to our tax department. Many times, we will submit the
Disability Tax Credit with 30 to 40 pages of T1 adjustments; that's tax
work, applying the credits in different scenarios, in different ways, as
we've mentioned, depending on life scenarios. Once that happens, we submit
it to CRA and wait approximately two to three months.
Then, as we have mentioned, I would say 80 per
cent of the time the CRA will send a follow-up questionnaire to the doctor,
which must be returned within 30 days or else the whole claim is nullified.
We then have to get in touch with the doctor. Many times the doctor is on
vacation for two weeks, which puts the 30-day process in jeopardy. A lot of
times the doctor has retired or is on maternity leave, et cetera. A lot of
times the doctor is just way too busy.
We have to follow up with that and ensure that
it gets back and then wait for the client to be approved. If the client is
approved, once again our tax department has to review the scenario and
ensure the client is getting all the money they are eligible for. As I
mentioned in my submission, 20 per cent to 25 per cent of our clients are
people who have applied on their own. Many of them were approved, but they
never received the money they should have received.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Medjuck. That was
helpful, but we'll have to reduce everybody else's time now on their
questions and answers.
Senator Merchant: I would like to ask Ms.
Hutchison a question. You mentioned Saskatchewan. I am from there, and I'm
not aware of the process. Can you tell us how that works in Saskatchewan?
Ms. Hutchison: Yes. I'm not able to
go into much detail beyond the report, but I can tell you what happens at
The processes and issues are much the same as
those that were talked about by Akiva, but the reality is that organizations
like the Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities have people complete
their forms. This assistance can also be received at an MP's office.
It is a challenge, as Akiva described, because
our process and that of Alberta Network for Mental Health is probably about
the same six-month duration, with all of the same processes, the only
difference being that we operate those services for free and we do not have
additional staff or grants. Everything done in that way is pretty much off
the side of our desk.
While our organization does advocacy, we are
supposed to have more activities around education and that sort of thing,
but this assistance is essential for every kind of form. The Disability Tax
Credit is quite a challenge, but it can save families a great deal of money
if they have some ability to recoup from their taxes.
Also very important, Senator Merchant, is to
have the Disability Tax Credit refundable so it can assist the most
vulnerable people who do not have access to extra income through any other
means. For people with disabilities, CPP Disability Benefit is taxable, so
people pay tax on it. If one has income from a long-term disability
insurance plan that is not private, or through their employer, that income
is also taxable.
There can be some significant savings. It would
be of great benefit to people who do not pay tax if this were a refundable
credit. It would go a long way to easing the poverty faced by people with
disabilities. It could be their annual contribution to a Registered
Disability Savings Plan if they were eligible. There would be ways to
leverage any small amount that they might get. I mean, $1,000, if this
credit were refundable, would go a long way to easing someone's poverty when
they're on CPP Disability Benefit, a provincial disability program or
Senator Buth: Ms. Hutchison and Ms. Cohen,
thank you for your presentations and the amount of information you gave us
above and beyond essentially what this bill addresses because I think it's
really important information for us to know.
Going back to the bill, we just heard from
three promoters — I use the word "promoters" because it is defined in the
bill and not negatively — who said the industry standard fee is 30 per. Can
you comment briefly on that? What do you think of the 30 per cent fee?
Ms. Hutchison: As we stated in our
presentation, even 10 per cent is high for someone with a disability. I also
must concede the point that 30 per cent as contingency is required by most
lawyers and accountants. It might be important to acknowledge that services
could be provided for free on any advertisement and where people could
access those sources for free. There are certain non-profits. For example,
Calgary Legal Guidance has an initial charge of $50. Our non-profits
throughout Council of Canadians with Disabilities and Disabled Women's
Network of Canada charge no fees whatsoever. However, this may be one thing
when one is looking at developing the results-based funding and the
provision of service through other granting mechanisms where there could
also be grants for staff.
As Akiva rightly identified, these processes
are extremely complex and require a large portion of our operation. It takes
three to six months. For some of our clients, because of their disabilities,
it takes one or two years by the time you get them through everything. They
may be able to make it in for one appointment, but then you have to wait for
them. Also, we are having problems with doctors retiring and people going on
maternity leave, that sort of thing, which can be tremendously challenging.
We have had two people whose doctors left the
clinics and provided no referral. The clinic did not assign another doctor
to them or refer them elsewhere, so they waited additional months because of
the time needed to find health care practitioners. This is another situation
that is really difficult.
Dr. Cohen: I would add to that. As I
mentioned, it is a matter of how you define the problem and how you want to
go about fixing it. There is sufficient lack of clarity in the form and
educating health care practitioners about what does and doesn't qualify.
Unfortunately, that's especially the case for problems related to mental
functions. It is easier to assess that someone who is a paraplegic can't
walk than it might be to assess the impact of a mental disorder. In the
example given about ADD, it shouldn't be at all about the diagnosis but
about the impact of the diagnosis on that person living in the world and
their adaptive functions.
I would suggest that more work could be done to
make the form and its eligibility criteria clearer to the providers who are
doing it. Health practitioners, psychologists among them, don't operate on a
contingency basis. They don't charge to complete forms based on a percentage
of what the patient is going to recover. There are fee schedules, and
psychological services are largely fee-for-service. It is a completely
different model. I would prefer to see the forms clearer so people can get
them filled out under their own steam.
Senator Buth: Briefly, I'll ask each of the
promoters: Will you participate in the consultations to set the fees?
Dr. Okorofsky: May I answer that? In my
closing statement, I said it is probably one of the most important things we
can do. This is not the Wild West. There needs to be structure and realistic
Now that I have a chance with my microphone on,
I question the remarks made about free services. Nothing is free. The NPOs
are funded and the NGOs are funded. Everybody that helps is funded. We are
not funded. The idea that we charge and they do it for free is probably a
bit of a misnomer. I really wanted to make that point.
Mr. Anthony: We would be happy to attend
any consultation in the future whenever we're invited by the Senate.
Mr. Medjuck: Me too.
The Chair: The invitation may not be from
Dr. Okorofsky: Whoever.
Senator Gerstein: Mr. Anthony, you
indicated that you have been in business for 23 years.
Mr. Anthony: Yes.
Senator Gerstein: Doctor, how long has your
business been in existence?
Dr. Okorofsky: Approximately four years.
Mr. Medjuck: Five years.
Senator Gerstein: Do you view yourselves as
Dr. Okorofsky: Akiva and my group?
Senator Gerstein: Yes.
Dr. Okorofsky: We provide a similar
service. Some of our methods and operational procedures are different. Each
of us has reasons for being involved in this particular business.
Senator Gerstein: Your motivations may be
Dr. Okorofsky: My motivation may be
different than Akiva's or Shawn's.
Senator Gerstein: What is your motivation?
Dr. Okorofsky: My motivation is that I'm a
disabled dentist. I can't practice. I had looked at the Disability Tax
Credit to see if it applied to me, which it does not. I'm restricted or
impaired from performing my professional duties as a dentist, but I can
dress myself, feed myself and take care of myself. I'm not impaired on a
day-to-day basis with basic functions of living. I can do all those things.
After 30-plus years in the dental profession, when the opportunity arose to
do something in a helping capacity, I jumped at it.
Senator Gerstein: Could you describe to the
committee a little about the industry you are in? Is it made up of people
like you who have a hundred employees, or is it broken down into cottage
Mr. Anthony: With all due respect, I do not
look at these two gentlemen and their organizations as my competitors. They
are much more in line with what they do, and we are a full-service
accounting company. Our specialty is medical and disability tax benefits.
That's what we have been doing for 23 years in 99 per cent of our business.
We hire accountants and do full-service accounting.
Senator Gerstein: Tell the committee about
Mr. Anthony: Right after this meeting, I'm
going to Peterborough where we were invited by the March of Dimes to do a
financial literacy seminar. Many people have come to us to talk about the
different experiences they have had in the industry when trying to qualify
for the Disability Tax Credit and other credits after that. They have had
struggles; and that's where we come in. The problem I have, by and large, is
with one- or two-person operations out of a basement. That's popping up more
and more at every trade show we go to or at every event.
Recently we were at a seniors' health care
event in Kingston. I met a woman who works on the Disability Tax Credit and
the caregiver credit from her house; and I've been to her office.
Senator Gerstein: I need to understand: Are
the majority of these businesses running out of a basement with one or two
people, or are the majority basically run by people such as you?
Mr. Anthony: I would say that the majority
are represented at this table. Would that be fair, gentlemen?
Dr. Okorofsky: I would disagree because
there are other firms. I would admit that the National Benefit Authority is
probably the largest one nationally. I spent an hour listening to somebody
from Grants International on the radio on Saturday talking about the
Disability Tax Credit ostensibly for walking. Grants is not a small company
either and is well known for recovery. There are numerous cottage
industries. When the bill came out, I contacted many of the people who
advertised to find out what type of operations they have. Ours is modest — a
dozen people involved in the interviews, reviews and the tax work, et
cetera. We're not nearly as large as Akiva’s. It is difficult to do as a
one-man band because there's so much to know. We have specialists in each
area, but it's not a huge business, like Ernst & Young is.
Senator Gerstein: Could you give us an idea
of the profile of your typical client?
Mr. Medjuck: I would say the profile —
Senator Gerstein: What income level are
Mr. Medjuck: Everywhere.
Senator Gerstein: I understand that. We're
talking about the majority.
Mr. Medjuck: You can't say that.
Unfortunately, I can't pinpoint it. It's like asking Canada Revenue Agency.
They're all over the map. Some people have zero income, so we have to find
who supports them. We have people with high income levels that are paying
high amounts in therapy, psychological services, et cetera, that this money
I would say that the common denominator for all
of our clients is that they have been disabled for 10, 20 and 30 years but
have not known about this credit. The member behind the bill had mentioned
in her riding that there were many veterans. Someone had to go on the radio
to tell them about the Disability Tax Credit. It’s a Catch-22. Either
they’re receiving it — people on the radio can tell them all they want but
they're already getting it — or they're not getting it and need someone on
the radio to tell them about it. Why aren't they receiving it?
The common denominator of the people is not
knowing about the credit. They have no clue. These are not people walking
out of a doctor's office having been diagnosed five minutes ago. These are
people who have been living with disabilities for most of their lives, and
they're lost. We're investing in people with disabilities. With all due
respect, we don't believe that helping people with disabilities should be
done on the side of the desk. They deserve our respect and our assistance.
Why did I get into this? I have two hearing-impaired siblings with cochlear
implants. I'm honoured and humbled to be able to make a living and have 120
other people make a living helping people with disabilities. They obviously
need the help because if they didn't need the help, I wouldn't be in
Senator Callbeck: Thank you for coming this
morning. I have many questions but I'll keep it to a couple of people in
view of the time.
Mr. Anthony, you said that you explore more
than one dozen credits. I don't want to take the time now, but could you
provide the committee with that list, please?
Mr. Anthony: I can provide that. If it's
okay with the committee, I'll have it translated and to you by the end of
Senator Callbeck: You mentioned that some
charge 30 per cent plus administration and insurance fees.
Mr. Anthony: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: Is it common practice to
charge a certain percentage plus these other fees?
Mr. Anthony: No. This is what we're hearing
from clients who come through our doors and tell us about their experience
with some of these other promoters.
Senator Callbeck: Do you have any idea how
much those fees would be, such as for insurance?
Mr. Anthony: I have heard numbers from $25
and up in administrative fees for document handling and a percentage of what
the person is quoted for insurance. This is from people who have come
through our doors after dealing with one of these promoters.
Senator Callbeck: With you, it is 30 per
cent, which includes everything.
Mr. Anthony: That includes all the credits
and a recommendation after that they talk to somebody about RDSPs, maybe
something like a Henson Trust fund.
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Medjuck, you
mentioned that many doctors are not paid for completing the form. Who
determines whether the doctor gets paid or doesn't get paid?
Mr. Medjuck: That's a very good question. I
will give you an example. With provincial applications, for example in
Ontario for the Ontario Disability Support Program, OHIP pays doctors a fee
for completing these forms; so doctors are a lot more amicable about
completing the forms because they're getting paid to do so.
For the federal Disability Tax Credit, there is
no mechanism in place for the government to pay doctors. Often, the patient
can't afford to pay the doctor a fee of $100, which it often is, and that's
a barrier. What do we do at the National Benefit Authority? We will cover
that cost in most scenarios, and we only bill it back if the client gets
money. If the client is not successful and is not accepted, then we swallow
Our mission is to remove as many barriers as
possible to accessing money that people may be entitled to.
Senator Callbeck: Dr. Cohen, you mentioned
certain psychological services. It is a grey area: You don't know whether to
charge the tax since the budget of last year; and you have been trying to
find out for a year. What is the practice?
Dr. Cohen: If the service primarily has a
health purpose then, of course, it would be exempt. The challenge is in
defining or understanding in Budget 2013 what is and what isn't a health
purpose. The problem with psychological services in Canada is that the bulk
of them are not covered by public health insurance, so it is fee for
service. If it's fee for service, there is invariably an insurance company
involved because people want to get coverage through the extended benefits
they might have through work or employment, for example.
Some of the challenges are in deciding if this
kind of assessment or this kind of intervention has a health purpose
attached. There continues to be a lack of clarity. We have heard from our
members that they will call CRA and get different opinions on the same
issue. We want some guidance and to have defined for us what does and
doesn't have a health purpose.
Our view is that because of the way these
services are funded in this country, you are not going to find an instance
in which there is not an insurance company attached. It's because of the way
in which it is remunerated and people get support for that service in the
Senator Bellemare: When I saw what we were
going to be discussing this morning, it struck me that there was very little
to debate. Today, however, I realize that we have just opened Pandora’s box.
There is a lot at stake here, not just the process, but also the simple
facts of the matter.
My question is for all the witnesses. Would you
like to see included in this bill — because it is motherhood and apple pie
legislation, and as a rule, everyone agrees that it is important to ensure
that disabled persons are not exploited — a maximum amount? There is a
consensus around 30 per cent. Would you like to see this in the bill before
it is passed, or do you think that it is a better idea to adopt it in
principle and then debate it later on?
As for my second question, I, too, was taken
aback by the notion of promoter. The word providers or
pourvoyeurs, in French, would be more suitable; service providers,
whether not-for-profit or for-profit organizations. That would be more
neutral as far as the bill is concerned. I would appreciate your thoughts on
these two matters.
Mr. Medjuck: Thank you very much. It is
difficult, and I will go off script for a second. You feel very attacked
when a bill is introduced and you are being called a promoter. It doesn't
feel like the right step forward to a working relationship. I appreciate
your mentioning that.
The Chair: I think Senator Buth touched on,
as well, that there is a negative connotation.
Mr. Medjuck: I sincerely appreciate it. The
other thing I want to mention is that you hit the nail on the head. Thirty
per cent is industry standard. It is a low number compared to other similar
industries, and I'm not sure it really needs an eight-month consultation. It
is pretty straight out there. We mentioned SR&ED, all of these different
lawyer contingency fees. Everyone around the table spoke to the fact, as
well, that 30 per cent is a reasonable fee, and we want to make sure that
the bill passes in a way that is going to protect the people with
disabilities. I think it is dangerous to kind of let loose a chicken. I'm
not sure that makes sense, but we will get back to that.
Senator Eggleton: It is a blank line.
Mr. Medjuck: Yes, to let something loose
and say, "We will pass this bill without any definition." I'm not sure how
comfortable I am having a bill out there like that when everyone is very
clear. To most people around the table, 30 per cent is a fair fee, and it is
a fee that allows people with disabilities, who choose to, to access the
government monies in a professional way, where they're going to be dealt
with professionally, ethically, et cetera.
The Chair: Are all the other witnesses
content to have Mr. Medjuck speak for them?
Dr. Okorofsky: I am never content to have
anybody speak for me. It is just my nature, but I do agree with the
honourable senator that I do not like the word "promoter" as well. This has
been alluded to several times, and I mentioned in my remarks that the idea
of an empty shell of a bill really is disturbing because we don't know what
we're talking about. Are we arguing for? Are we arguing against? Are we
supporting? Are we not supporting? Are we going beyond a number and then
helping to fix the system or to make the system more efficient, which is
what I'm hoping we're going to do? That would be my answer.
A number — 30, 25, whatever it is. We have
agreed the industry standard appears to be 30 per cent. We would be talking
completely differently today about how to fix the system, how to make things
work, than talking about whether we're promoters or consultants.
Dr. Cohen: I just want to say that whether
or not "promoter" is the right word is something you might want to look at,
but I don't think "provider" is the right word. That's often the word used
to describe health care practitioners — health providers — and it may aid
and abet a little bit of confusion that you are talking about two different
categories and two different roles.
Mr. Anthony: If I may, 30 per cent is
reflective of our practices since the beginning of time. For other companies
who do what we do, 30 per cent is what they've offered. I mean that from the
perspective of full-scale accounting as well. As far as going forward
without principle first, this is a completely unregulated industry. Anybody
at all can put a shingle on their door and do this.
The biggest problem that we have when people
come up to us is that they thought they had done everything they could do.
They met somebody. They did this work. They thought they did everything they
could do. Meanwhile, there are thousands of dollars left on the table that
could pay for their therapies, that could pay for their renovations, that
accommodate their condition. Regulation is required.
The Chair: Ms. Hutchison, are you content
with 30 per cent?
Ms. Hutchison: I would only, I think, on
behalf of our organizations, be content with 30 per cent if the question of
disbursement is addressed within the legislation. Disbursements are things
like photocopying, postage, any filing fees that they may have to do,
expenses for travelling to an appeal, that sort of thing. That question also
must be addressed in the legislation, and I also endorse the word
"consultant" that was put around the table.
The Chair: The issue of what percentage is
not dealt with in the legislation either but is left to regulation. Thank
you. You have no comment with respect to "promoter" or "provider"?
Ms. Hutchison: Consultant.
The Chair: Thank you. Sorry, I missed that.
I have three senators left. We have not a lot of time, but we may go over a
tiny bit if everybody is okay with that. We're moving along quite nicely.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: For the sake of
timing, I will speak English. Dr. Cohen, I was wondering: Are you aware that
some doctors are charging more or less or whatever? Where is the fee
established? By whom?
Dr. Cohen: Appreciate that the qualified
health practitioners that can fill out the form span many professions, like
occupational therapists, physicians, optometrists, psychologists, so I don't
know the fee set by every single profession. Whether they have an hourly fee
schedule or an hourly rate for their work or whether they charge for the
form, I believe it is more common that they charge to fill out the form. One
of the challenges with the T2201 is that even though the form is fairly
short, when you get the questionnaire back for further clarification, it can
take quite a bit of time.
The fees may in fact be nominal, but I just
don't have that data to give you.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Do we associate
the doctors or professionals that are giving the evaluation of the person
qualifying that person as handicapped? Are they part of the promoters, or
are they just separate professionals that supply that for the promoter to
make the request?
Dr. Cohen: No, they're not consultants or
promoters. They're the health care provider for the person with the
disability who is attempting to receive the credit. In order for them to
establish their eligibility, they have to bring the form to a health care
practitioner who can attest to the fact that their disability is markedly
restrictive and that either they can't do something or it takes an
inordinate amount of time and so on and so forth.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I want to
clarify. Those of you who are making the claim, are you also promoting the
Registered Disability Savings Plan? Are you telling people that there is
another program too that they can have access to and create that fund for
Mr. Medjuck: At the National Benefit
Authority we definitely do. This is the first step, the Disability Tax
Credit. When people are approved for the Disability Tax Credit, we inform
them of two things. Number one is that, many times, they get approved for
future years, and they're able to claim those independently, without using
any provider. Number two is the RDSP, et cetera. So 100 per cent. We set
them up. All of the banks offer the RDSPs, et cetera. This is where their
expertise lies, and we send them in that direction.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Is there an extra
fee for that?
Mr. Medjuck: No, not at all.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Just to inform my
colleagues who did not attend the study of the bill about this, there are
half a million handicapped people in Canada who they say are admissible,
and, actually, only 15 per cent are covered. As far as I'm concerned, what
our report is saying — I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, but I think we should share
that with you. We have worked quite a few months for that.
The Chair: I appreciate your doing that
Senator Hervieux-Payette: They are saying,
in fact, that the federal government should increase and also make it a lot
easier in terms of communication so that the people are aware of it. So
somebody mentioned $1.5 million.
I hear about the action plan a zillion times a
week, so I wish that the action plan would talk about this. At least this is
true: It is half a million people. We should have a campaign with that kind
of mechanism. There are two big programs, and the second one is a huge one.
It is half a billion dollars now that people are putting aside for them to
benefit in the future from that fund.
We talk also about the provincial government.
In Quebec, my colleague would know that we have the Régie des rentes du
Québec, which is also providing some benefit to handicapped people. You have
to go to a process to be qualified as a handicapped person. So would you say
that, in Quebec, once the Régie is qualifying you, you automatically can
So you see, there's a lot of money lost in the
system for administrative purposes, and the person can be handicapped there
and, in the other place, not handicapped. To me, it is a big mess. I applaud
the private member's bill. I subscribe to the measure.
First, they should be available; there should
be a tax refundable to the person and not something that you qualify for
only if you have money. This is totally ridiculous. Very often they are
people who have difficulty meeting all the expenses because of their
handicap. Second, I think the process should be improved and you should be
consulted to improve it.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Eaton: I have difficulty gathering
whether you are for this bill or against this bill, but how will this bill
affect your business if it goes through the way it is now?
Mr. Anthony: For us at TaxWise it will not.
If its 30 per cent it will not.
Dr. Okorofsky: My problem with this is the
fact that it doesn't say anything. You ask whether I support it or I don't.
I don't know what to support because what is in there is nothing. There is
no fee and there are no guidelines so it's impossible. At 30 per cent I'm on
a train and I'm out of here because I would be very happy with that. As
well, with rules, regulations, some kind of guidelines, that's fine. At 30
per cent we're all very happy. That's as much or more than what we're
charging now, but how do I answer your question?
Senator Eaton: Well, you answered it
Mr. Medjuck: At 30 per cent we 100 per cent
would back the bill. We feel that people with disabilities should be
protected, whether it's through regulations with regard to privacy or
whatnot. That's something I see that the eight-month consultation could
really address. However, I feel very strongly that the bill should pass with
a 30 per cent number in it which everyone we've spoken to and the committee
has heard from feels is fair and well within their range of any other
Senator Eggleton: Thank you very much for
working me in, Mr. Chair. I'm not a member of the committee but I come as
the opposition critic on the bill. Sorry I couldn't be here for all the time
because I was at my regular committee across the hall, in this case the
Committee on Transport.
Mr. Medjuck, you said in your opening
While Bill C-462 is designed to
"protect disabled Canadians," instead it will likely reduce public
awareness and force families to deal with the process on their own.
Advisers will focus on cases that will require the least amount of
work — clients with high incomes who pay enough taxes to claim the
credit. Canadians with lower incomes, to whom the funds are even
more important, will be left to fend for themselves.
Are you making that statement just on the basis
of what the percentage will be? In other words, if it's 30 per cent this
statement wouldn't apply?
Mr. Medjuck: That's correct. Thirty per
cent is a safe number. I feel that if 30 per cent is put into the bill then
the people with disabilities are in a good position, the companies are in a
good position to be able to help them properly, efficiently and
professionally, 100 per cent.
Senator Eggleton: If it's 20 per cent or 15
per cent, you think that applies?
Mr. Medjuck: It will start cutting into and
it will be hurting the people with disabilities. It's going to be cutting
down on the marketing, being able to bring this information to people and
how we're able to hold their hands through the process, which is something
that people with disabilities require.
Senator Eggleton: Thank you. Dr. Cohen, you
said that if you make the process simpler and clearer the market for
promoters may be reduced, and you said that you previously had advocated for
a new kind of wording in the form.
I gather from what we've been hearing here
today that we couldn't come to the conclusion that that similar form would
cover 100 per cent, but what percentage do you think it would cover? How
much do you think you could reduce by a simpler form the number of times
that people have to go to these consultants — I'll call them consultants —
as opposed to being able to do it themselves?
Dr. Cohen: To some extent it's an empirical
question. I don't have the data, and maybe CRA does, but when they revised
the eligibility criteria and they revised the T2201 substantially in around
2004-05, it would be interesting to see how that affected the number of
applications they received, the number that are approved, the number that go
back for further information, whether they are related to mental functions
and so on. That would give us some basis for seeing whether the changes that
were made did in fact make it easier. I think it's a matter of making it
clearer, getting the information out to health care providers as a
communication function, as well as to people with disabilities.
It concerns me that if something is complex the
solution is to get someone to help you with it rather than making that
process clearer so that health providers know exactly what they need to do
to certify eligibility. After the T2201 was revised, I endeavoured to write
some guidance to help providers, to say, "Here's how your client with a
mental disorder might qualify." As one organization, of course, there is a
limit to the dissemination of that information we can accomplish on our own.
Senator Eggleton: I have a final question
for any of you. Some of you have talked about other things you think should
be covered, like unethical advertising, misleading advertising practices or
helping ensure that the bill would help ensure consultants don't make
promises of eligibility they cannot guarantee, don't charge people to apply
for it when they are clearly not eligible and don't charge people
inordinately even if they are deemed eligible. I don't see any of that in
I think Dr. Okorofsky has said it's really a
bill with just a framework for deciding on what a fee is going to be but the
fee isn't there; it's a blank.
Should this bill be held up pending these other
things that perhaps should be addressed, or is there a parallel process to
address these other things?
Mr. Anthony: Senator Eggleton, thank you
very much for the question. Our intention to come here today was to inform
the Senate of the industry and the things we hear in the industry and things
that we were experiencing. One thing we've noticed, probably much like the
other people here on the panel, is that people who come to us are often
society's most vulnerable and most marginalized. When you're talking about
somebody who is financially distressed and they see an ad with a person with
a cane saying you can get $40,000, it can be misleading. This is what we're
hearing from the marketplace. That was my statement, and that was our
intention to inform the committee on what we're hearing from the
Senator Eaton: This bill doesn't address
Mr. Anthony: No, but again, we wanted to
come and inform the committee of the state of the marketplace.
Mr. Medjuck: To be very honest with you,
I'm a little surprised by I would say the lack of knowledge of a lot of very
key elements to understanding the Disability Tax Credit, how it works, how
our companies work, that the member behind the bill really just isn't aware
of. Even the point that the member behind the bill mentioned that the money
comes to the companies and we give that out, that's inaccurate. Therefore
what concerns me is that there was no consultation before the bill to able
really to see what type of bill is necessary.
Just to add to your point, I would love to see
the eight-month consultation with CRA be consultation with our companies,
who have dealt with tens of thousands of people with disabilities who for
whatever reason didn't go to CRA but they came to us. Let CRA speak to us.
I'm happy to have a dialogue with CRA to be able to say, "These are things
you could do to make this process simpler or easier." We as companies have
dealt with more forms than any specific individual person out there.
It baffles my mind and we've reached out to CRA
on numerous occasions saying, "We'd love to have a dialogue with you to be
able to tell you small things you could do." I'm not talking about
legislative changes; I'm talking about small changes to make this process
easier for people with disabilities. And the only response we've received
numerous times is, "We're not able to give preference to anybody and we
can't have a dialogue with you."
With that eight-month consultation, instead of
spending it trying to figure out whether it should be 29 per cent or 31 per
cent, let's use CRA's valuable time to look at the end game. How do we help
people with disabilities do this independently without necessarily requiring
a company like us or requiring us less?
Dr. Okorofsky: I will address the idea of
the misleading ads. As we all know, on line or in the newspaper or wherever,
you have basically a nanosecond to get someone's attention. If the ads seem
a little outrageous to some, you also have to understand that advertising
people say, "You need to grab them fast and get their attention." We spend
all our time talking to them personally, and then we explain what's
involved. If they don't understand we explain it to them. We explain what
the potential upside or the potential benefit may be. They may not be
entitled to anything. Those are things we do once we are able to establish a
dialogue, but you only have a second, a brief moment to try to make them
aware that it's there, and then you talk to them in person.
Dr. Cohen: I have a brief comment on the
consultation with consultants. It's a requirement of establishing your
eligibility that a health care provider fills out this form. Let's not lose
sight of the fact that if we're going to invest in consultation, consult
with the health care providers who must fill out the form, not necessarily
the consultants who can or may assist someone to fill out the form.
The Chair: That's a very good point.
It's clear we could have gone on for some time
on this issue. The service that is needed by this segment of society,
taxpayers with disabilities, is very important, and a lot of senators have
had some very serious questions and you've answered them to the best of your
ability. We thank you very much for that, Mr. Anthony, Dr. Okorofsky, Mr.
Medjuck, Dr. Cohen, and Ms. Hutchison. Thank you very much for being there.
Colleagues, thank you for your questions. We
will think about a lot of these issues. If any senator feels we should do
further research on this issue, please let a member of steering or our clerk
know, otherwise it's our intention to proceed with clause by clause tomorrow
evening. That will give you today and tomorrow to reflect on the very
important information the witnesses have brought to us.
This meeting is now concluded.
(The committee adjourned.)