INCOME TAX, CUSTOMS
DUTIES, AND POSTAGE RULES
There are inequities in income tax, customs duties, and postage
rules which discriminate against and/or impose hardships upon Deaf
The CAD's position: The special needs of Deaf people,
such as expensive assistive devices, should be recognized by the
Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, by the Ministry of Finance, and
by Canada Post, who should all then take steps to ensure that Deaf
Canadians do not suffer financially because of their deafness.
The Canadian Association of the Deaf was one of the disabled consumers
organizations that led the successful fight to extend the diisability
deduction from income tax beginning with the 1986 taxation year.
The deduction was subsequently changed to a non-refundable tax credit.
We believe this change is a mistake and that the credit should be
made refundable. It is a mistake because a huge percentage of Deaf
and disabled people are unemployed and have incomes below the poverty
line -- thus, they cannot claim the credit on their income tax.
The Canadian Association
of the Deaf reminds the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the federal
and provincial Ministries of Finance, and other disability groups
that the rationale for expanding the original disability deduction
was not in order to compensate for the additional living expenses
incurred by persons with a disability — that is what the medical
expenses credit is for. The disability deduction, on the other hand,
was established to recognize the fact that disabled individuals
do not have full access to quality education and employment ; that
many government services are not accessible or are accessible only
if the disabled individual assumes the burden of extra expenses
and/or efforts; and that there is a consequential loss of opportunities
for people who have a disability. This rationale provides all the
more reason to make the credit refundable.
The Canadian Association
of the Deaf rejects the requirement of a medical certificate in
order to qualify for the disability credit. The CCRA’s own
records show that only 10 percent of disabled Canadians applied
for the credit. The fear of mass claims for the credit which led
the government to insist on the certificate requirement is thus
No certification is needed
for several of the other deductions and credits such as the child
credit; it is thus discrimination on the basis of disability to
require this certification from disabled people.
The CAD particularly
opposes the requirement of an audiogram for Deaf applicants. This
is clearly a disability-specific discrimination, since persons who
have other kinds of disabilities are not required to furnish equivalent
"proof". Moreover, even the relevant government departments
(including Health Canada) have admitted that audiograms are not
accurate measurements of either hearing loss or of restrictions
on daily living.
If certification of some
kind is to be required, then associations of the Deaf (including
the CAD), school principals, church ministers, and others should
be allowed to issue the certificates, rather than only doctors.
Medical personnel may not be suitable for certifying eligibility
for a variety of reasons, including the fact that their involvement
constitutes a medicalization of a non-medical condition, and the
fact that they themselves seldom have a disability such as deafness
and are therefore incompetent to judge its effects except medically.
The criteria used for
determining eligibility for benefits/credits as a person who is
deaf or hard of hearing are based on the assumption that such individuals
are “functionally limited” if they “cannot hear,
so as to understand, a conversation in a quiet setting with a person
who is familiar to them”. This is utterly absurd. No one spends
their daily lives in quiet settings with familiar persons; even
the home is not a quiet setting. Time spent in a quiet setting with
a familiar person has nothing to do with the “functional limitations”
that Deaf people face 24 hours a day in a society built upon sound.
It does not reflect the fact that society erects “sound barriers”
to our participation.
The medical expense credit
from income tax is intended to compensate Deaf and disabled individuals
for the extra expenses incurred as a result of their disability.
It has failed to do so, mainly because of the "percentage"
limit imposed against claims and because of the non-refundable nature
of the credit. People with disabilities have an employment and income
level much lower than the average, and they have a medical expense
level higher than the average; the credit as it is currently applied
fails to take these inequities into account.
In addition, low-income
Deaf consumers in some provinces find themselves forced to turn
to welfare in order to obtain needed devices and services. This
has the effect of encouraging dependency upon welfare; thus, the
short-term reductions in health expenses to the government actually
become long-term increases in welfare expenses.
Many of the devices required
by Deaf people are imported from or purchased in the United States:
these include caption decoders, TTYs, and visual alarms. The CAD
urges that the medical necessity of these devices should be recognized
by the removal of all customs duties and federal and provincial
sales taxes which are currently being applied against them.
Materials for blind people
which are sent through the mails are postage-free. We maintain that
this is discriminatory against Deaf people in that Canada Post has
recognized only the special communication barriers facing blind
people and has ignored or denied those of Deaf people. Audiotapes
and braille transcripts for the blind are no different from videotapes
and Sign language materials for the Deaf; both should be granted
approved: 17th July 2002
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
The Canadian Association of the Deaf
203 - 251 Bank Street