Have you ever asked your pharmacist, “Can I claim prescriptions on taxes?” Yes, you can. And there are a number of other medical expenses the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) allows you to claim.

If you’re managing health conditions, the last thing you need is the extra load of navigating tax rules on medical expenses. Understanding the CRA guidelines on medical expenses can feel like a lot, but knowing what qualifies can have a big impact your tax return.

The list of eligible expenses you can claim is long. Even the CRA stresses that its own list isn’t exhaustive; so chances are your medical expenses qualify when filing your taxes. Let’s jump into the essentials of claiming medical expenses.

Key Takeaways
  1. Medical expenses not covered by provincial or private health-care plans may save you money on your tax return.
  2. If you file your taxes jointly with a spouse or partner, it’s usually best to claim the medical expenses on the return with the lower net income.
  3. Save your medical receipts in case the CRA asks to see them.

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Which medical expenses are tax deductible?

According to the CRA medical expense list, a wide variety of medical expenses qualify as deductible. These range from public or private hospital services, nursing care, premiums paid to private health-care companies, physiotherapy, naturopathic services, and prescription drugs to more specific medical aids such as hearing aids, electrotherapy devices, eyeglasses, and heart-monitoring devices.

When claiming medical expenses on your tax return, it’s important that the costs haven’t already been paid by provincial or private plans. The amount you claim on your return must be the amount you paid out of your own pocket.

Are you wondering what other expenses you can claim? The list continues:

  • Artificial limbs or eyes
  • Contact lenses, including equipment and materials for using contacts
  • Dental expenses
  • Doctor or physician expenses (this varies by province; please visit the CRA for details)
  • Insulin, needles, syringes, and infusion pumps to treat diabetes
  • Insurance premiums for medical-care coverage through plans such as Blue Cross or Canada Life
  • Laboratory fees
  • Medical aids, including wheelchairs, hearing aids and batteries, eyeglasses, contact lenses, crutches, braces, and guide dogs (and their care)
  • Pre- and post-natal treatments and in vitro fertility treatments
  • Travel and hotel expenses to receive medical care outside your community (must keep track of mileage, date, and reason for visit)

If you don’t see your medical expenses on this list, the CRA offers a handy search feature you can use to check eligibility. Exploring the less-obvious deductible medical expenses opens up additional opportunities for tax savings, emphasizing the importance of thorough documentation and consultation with healthcare providers. These not-so-common claims, such as air purifiers and speech synthesizers, can further optimize your tax return.

Note: Receipts are required to claim all medical expenses (with the exception of mileage). Save all your receipts in case the CRA requests these at a later date.

Can medical expenses be carried forward?

Yes, you can carry forward medical expenses in Canada. If you have medical expenses that were not claimed in the previous year, they can be claimed on your tax return for the following year. This is helpful if you didn’t have enough expenses to benefit from the credit in the year the expenses were incurred.

To carry forward medical expenses they must be for a 12-month period ending in the taxation year you are filing. So, to that end, they can only be carried forward for one year.

For example, if you are preparing your 2023 tax return, and you have medical expenses paid in 2022 you’d like to claim, the 12-month period must end in 2023. If you didn’t have any medical costs in 2023, the 12-month period of January 2, 2022 to January 1, 2023 would let you claim the most expenses.

If you did have medical expenses in 2023, then you would want to use the 12-month period that captures the most medical expenses when considering your 2022 and 2023 medical costs. (For the 12-month period, the months need to be consecutive.)

Can I claim medical expenses for my family?

Yes, you or your spouse can claim medical expenses for your immediate family. This includes either partner’s children or stepchildren who are 18 years old or younger. These expenses should be listed on line 33099 of your tax 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 as well. List those expenses on line 33199.

Any family members for whom you claim medical expenses must have been Canadian residents for all or part of the year.

Who in a couple should claim medical expenses?

For couples, the decision of who should claim medical expenses can involve some planning. Generally, it may be better for the partner with the lower income to make the claim, which maximizes the tax refund potential.

If you claimed medical expenses on line 33200 or the disability supports deduction on line 21500 on your return, you may be eligible for the medical expense supplement. This refundable tax credit is available to most working individuals with lower incomes and high medical expenses.

Is it worth claiming medical expenses on taxes in Canada?

Evaluating whether to claim medical expenses comes down to understanding their potential impact on your tax return. You can claim medical expenses for any 12-month period ending in the taxation year—but, in order for you to make a claim, your total eligible medical expenses must equal more than the lesser of 3% of your net income, or $2,635.

With the ability to carry forward some unclaimed expenses to the next year, planning becomes important in your tax strategy arsenal. Understanding how medical expenses are claimed is key to making informed decisions.

Claiming medical expenses on your tax returns in Canada can ease your tax burden. By learning what qualifies, leveraging tax credits, and planning for your situation, you can optimize your tax return. 

TurboTax makes this easy with a built-in medical-expense worksheet that guides you through the complexities of medical deductions, ensuring you don’t miss a single tax-saving opportunity.

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