The 411: Medical Expenses + Filing Taxes
Ah, taxes. The single word that conjures up all sorts of (mostly scary!) feelings. And adding medical expenses on top of that, where do you even start? Well, we asked Lisa Gittens, a senior tax expert from H&R Block Canada, for her input on how to successfully tackle claiming your medical expenses + filing your taxes.
The biggest misconception about medical expenses + filing taxes.
People often don’t understand that you can only claim medical expenses to the extent that they exceed 3 percent of your net income. So the actual amount of medical expenses that can be claimed will vary from person to person. Still, you can actually maximize your expenses so that you can claim for any 12-month period ending in the taxation year. So, even if you aren’t eligible in the current taxation year, hold onto your receipts and try again next year!
Dos + Don’ts.
KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS.
Regardless of your income, don’t dismiss submitting medical expenses! Make sure you keep receipts for any medical expense you wish to claim. And if you’re unsure if you can claim an expense, it’s best to keep the receipt anyways and ask a tax expert.
KNOW WHAT YOU CAN + CAN’T CLAIM.
Regardless of where you live in Canada, you can’t claim over-the-counter medications or vitamins/supplements (even if they’re recommended by a doctor). Gym memberships and fitness classes are also a no.
With that being said, here’s a list of things you CAN claim as a medical expense:
✓ Private health service premiums paid in the year
✓ Wigs (provided with a doctor’s prescription)
✓ Breast prosthesis (if required due to a mastectomy)
✓ Vitamin B12 (with a prescription… it’s the ONLY vitamin that can be claimed)
✓ Expenses for a companion or attendant if you require assistance to access medical services (a doctor’s letter is required)
✓ Medicinal marijuana, plants, seeds, and cannabis oil authorized for medical use and provided by a licensed vendor under Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes.
✓ Ambulance service to or from a public or licensed private hospital
✓ Medical travel (only if there are no equivalent medical services where you live and you have to travel more than 40 km for transportation or 80 km for other travel expenses such as meals, accommodation, parking).
✓ The cost of any medical treatment in another country (although you can only claim the cost of travel if equivalent medical services are not available where you live).
For more, check out Canada Revenue Agency’s full list of eligible medical expenses.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
It’s also important to consider the dos + donts for your province, especially if you’ve moved recently. You can only claim the services of practitioners that are registered in your province. Some provinces have the regulatory authorities in place for some practitioners, but not others. For example, you can claim Naturopaths in Alberta, British Colombia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, but not in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, or Quebec.
For a full list of authorized practitioners in your province, click here.
Stay informed on any tax benefit changes coming up. There haven’t been any changes in 2017, but in 2018 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will be able to claim their service animals.
The eligibility question.
Low income and/or self-employment can affect eligibility. If you are low-income (you do not have enough tax payable to offset your medical expenses), claiming your medical expenses won’t make sense because it’s a non-refundable tax credit. But, if you have earned income (like employment income or income from self-employment), you can claim the refundable medical expense supplement instead.
It’s okay to ask for help.
If you’re able, it’s always a good idea to find an accountant or tax expert that you can contact with any questions or concerns you have. If you’re unsure about something, it’s always best to ask.