Medical expenses may be one of the most under-utilized tax credits, says Hamilton, Ontario accountant Alan Rowell. The list of eligible expenses you can claim is extensive. Even the Canada Revenue Agency stresses that its own list isn’t exhaustive, so chances are your significant medical expenses qualify when filing your taxes.
To search for your medical expenses to see if they qualify or not, or require a prescription, check back regularly to the CRA Medical Expenses chart.
Common medical expenses
Many common medical costs are eligible as expenses if they’re and not covered under your provincial health plan, though some may need to be prescribed by your doctor. Often, these expenses are straight-forward and include:
- Public or private hospital services
- Prescription drugs and medications, not including over-the-counter products
- Pre- and post-natal treatments and in vitro fertility treatments
- Walking aids and wheelchairs
- Insulin, needles and syringes and infusion pumps to treat diabetes
- Artificial limbs or eyes
- Travel expenses to receive medical care outside your community.
Receipts are required to claim these costs, and should be attached to your tax return if you file a physical copy. If you file electronically, save the receipts together in case the CRA requests these at a later date.
There are some less obvious expenses that may improve life for someone living with a medical condition, and may qualify as a valid medical expense for tax purposes. Keep in mind some might require a doctor’s prescription. Such unusual expenses include:
- Air conditioners or furnaces that improve life for a person with a chronic condition
- Trained animals to help the blind, deaf, physically impaired, autistic or epileptic, including care and maintenance costs such as food and veterinarian
- Cosmetic and plastic surgery that is reconstructive or medical in nature
- Cancer treatment outside Canada, performed by a licensed practitioner
- Speech synthesizers, bliss boards or other devices that aid and improve a person’s ability to communicate
- Costs for purchasing gluten-free foods for those with celiac disease
The family members you can claim
Medical expenses for immediate family can be claimed by either you or your spouse.
This includes either partner’s children or stepchildren who are 18 years old or younger, and these expenses are listed on line 330 of your return. When others who aren’t your children or stepchildren depend on you for support, you can claim medical expenses you paid on their behalf, and those are declared on line 331.
Qualifying dependants include:
- Children or stepchildren 19 or over
- Brothers or sisters
- Aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews
Any of the extended family members for whom you claim medical expenses must have been Canadian residents for all or part of the year.
How qualifying deductions work
“There’s a basic medical expenses deduction equal to 3 percent of your net income or $2,302 (in 2018), whichever is less,” says Toronto accountant Larry West. “Your medical expenses must exceed this amount before a deduction makes a difference.” Remember that it’s not just your expenses, but potentially your spouse’s and children’s, as well. It may make sense for the spouse with the lower income to claim medical expenses. The same holds true for dependants listed on line 331. Only expenses above 3 percent or $2,208 will produce tax savings.
A tax software package such as TurboTax will keep these expenses straight for you.
The 12-month rule
Eligible medical expenses can be claimed for any 12-month period ending in the tax year for which you’re claiming if they have not been claimed in the previous year.
For example, if you had an illness that began in 2018 and required minor expenses that year, but then grew serious and expensive in 2019 before being cured in June, you could claim all eligible expenses from June 2018 to June 2019. However, if you’re claiming medical expenses for your spouse or dependants, you must use this same 12-month period. You can use a different 12-month period each tax year, as long as you are not using expenses previously claimed.
References & Resources
- Larry West, CPA; Toronto, Ontario
- Huntstock/DisabilityImages/Getty Images