OTTAWA — An advisory committee is calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to promote access to the disability tax credit in Indigenous communities.
The CRA's disability advisory committee, which includes professionals and advocates, said in its second annual report Friday the revenue agency should fund organizations with ties to Indigenous Peoples to help individuals and communities understand and apply for the disability tax credit and other benefits.
Committee vice-chair Sherri Torjman said the revenue agency should explore ways to collect data on disability tax-credit applications submitted by Indigenous applicants.
Accessing the disability tax credit can be a gateway that allows people to apply for other CRA benefits, Torjman said in an interview.
"Many people just aren't aware of the credit at all, or if they are, they don't think it applies to them," she said.
"The CRA has to work in partnership with Indigenous communities. It can't take action on its own in order to address issues related to the range of Indigenous concerns."
Those in rural or remote areas often don't have health providers who can fill out the disability credit application form, she noted. "In some cases, people have to pay money to these health providers to fill in the forms, and it's also a question of language and how things are described."
Torjman recommended the government expand the tax-deduction list of work-related equipment disabled people often purchase to be able to do their jobs, to keep pace with technological improvements.
"We know that people with disabilities face higher-than-average rates of unemployment, and one of the challenges arises from the high cost of work-related equipment that they often was purchased on their own," she said.
In addition, an advisory body should be established to address any emerging issues regarding how registered disability savings plans interact with the disability tax credit, Torjman said.
National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said she's committed to improving the services available to people living with disabilities to better meet their needs and expectations.
"We will continue to collaborate within the government in order to prioritize these important issues and considerations related to disability in Canada," she said in a statement following the report's release.
The revenue agency said the committee and the CRA have made significant progress on the 42 recommendations in the first annual report, released in May 2019.
It said 90 per cent of the recommendations are either fulfilled or being addressed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press