As a way of paying it forward for all the help the Blunt Bean Counter (BBC) gave me for setting up my son’s Disability Tax Credit for School Fees, I think the best place to start is a quick How To (or more of a How I, not sure your situation will work exactly like mine) setting up a Child Disability Benefit with the CRA. This is the first important financial thing you must do if you have a disabled child. I will attempt to point to all the relevant parts of the CRA web site, but remember, you can call the CRA (OK February may not be the best time to call, but call anyhow) and ask for clarification or help on how to do this.
First thing is, if you have a child with a disability, you must take advantage of all the help you can from the Government (at all levels) and all the programs you can get. We were quite lucky when our son was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum that the Psychologist at OCTC (Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre) at CHEO (The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) filled out all our CRA forms for us (they even provided them). We also were assigned a social worker to speak to us and she had an entire list of things for us to do, now that we had an actual diagnosis about Rhys (our son).
At the time I was having a very hard time coming to grips with the diagnosis, and giving my brain something tangible to do, helped me move forward to help our son. One day Mrs. C8j may write her perspectives on this, but for me just having a list of things to do made it easier to cope (in some ways).
So to sum up, the first thing for this Disability Benefits, you must get a diagnosis from an accredited professional (for that disability).
I will quote the CRA web site on this just for clarity sake:
Not all children with disabilities are eligible for the disability amount. To be eligible a child must have a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. An impairment is prolonged if it has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months
In a great many cases, a child’s disability is obvious, and there should be no issue with getting this disability benefit, however, in the case of the Autism Spectrum and other developmental disabilities, whether you get this benefit relies heavily on the documentation supplied by the diagnosing professional. The CRA can refuse your request for the Child Disability Benefit if your documentation is not to their liking, so make sure the diagnosing professional has filled in the forms before (and knows what needs to be said in the documentation).
Second you need to get the professional to fill in a T2201 Disability Tax Credit Certificate for your child. If your Doctor or other professional says, “I have never done this before” or “I don’t have very good luck with these”, I would strongly suggest you find a Doctor or Hospital that does have experience with this (CHEO in Ottawa, Sick Kids in Toronto, The Children’s Hospital in Montreal as a few examples). These folks know the correct phraseology needed to help you out. Nothing can be more frustrating than not getting benefits you deserve because of the writing shortcomings on a form.
Attempting to claim the Disability Benefit without a T2201 will fail, it must be filled in first! The Psychologist at OCTC knew the correct terms to use for our form, so our claim was accepted, for 10 years, however when Rhys turns 15 we will have to reapply for the Disability Benefit, to remain Disabled (in the eyes of the CRA).
After you have the T2201, you can now start applying for the Child Disability Benefits, by filling out RC66 - Canada Child Benefits Application Form. The form is relatively straight forward to fill in, and wasn’t hard for my wife and myself, but there was an added wrinkle suggested by the OCTC Social Worker.
Since our son was being diagnosed at age 3, we also applied to have the diagnosis and thus the benefit retroactive to my son’s birth. This means we actually applied to get the benefit ongoing, but also for the previous 3 years of my son’s life. OCTC gave us a template letter to fill in asking for this, to be included with the T2201, and RC66 application forms (remember to send ORIGINALS, the CRA will ignore photocopied T2201 forms, as they state on their site, this is important).
The letter we included was quite simple, and if I can find the example, I will make it available on this site, however, it was a simple statement of my son’s birth date, the fact that his diagnosis of Autism is a neurological disorder and that it was present as of birth.
Once you have finally compiled all of this information, you then can mail it into the CRA for their approval. As I stated, there are no guarantees here, but as long as you have followed all of the steps and have a well written set of documents you should be OK (in our case the diagnosis was accepted, but I have heard of other cases where the diagnosis was not accepted).
Hope this helps those parents with disabled kids, if you think there is a mistake here or a step I have missed, please comment (I am not saying this is an exhaustive set of steps, just what we went through with our son).
If your diagnosis is accepted the next step is to start looking for Medical and Disability related Tax implications (to be covered in a later post).