Here in Canada, ostomates often have to pay for ostomy supplies out-of-pocket.
Costs are such a concern that I’ve dedicated an entire post outlining ways that Canadians can save money on ostomy supplies.
But of all the ways to save money the most important, in my opinion, is the Disability Tax Credit (DTC).
Stuff You Should Know
Since these types of services tend to evolve, the application process may not be exactly as described in this article. Always check the appropriate government website to find out what the latest application process and qualifications are.
Important: If you do not have an ostomy, but have had a prolonged flare due to IBD, you may still be able to qualify for the DTC during the duration of your flare (I did many years ago).
You will probably be charged a fee by your doctor to have their part of the application filled. This shouldn’t be more than $30, but that depends on your doctor’s rates.
Having DTC will also help to qualify you for a Registered disability savings plan (RDSP) from the government. Details HERE. (thanks for the tip, Zee!)
What is Disability Tax Credit?
The DTC is available to all Canadians with a disability as a way to reduce their income taxes. This can often result in a sizeable refund for many of us, but it’s something that you have to apply (and wait) for.
It’s important to note that this is not “disability” as in, you collect money for not being able to work. Rather, it’s to help offset some of the expenses caused by an impairment.
To be eligible for the DTC, the CRA requires you to either be “markedly restricted in at least one of the basic activities of daily living” (listed above) AND it must also be “prolonged, which means the impairment has lasted, or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months” and “is present all or substantially all the time (at least 90% of the time)” (SOURCE)
A few things need to be clarified here. What counts as “markedly restricted” and how long is an “inordinate amount of time” when they ask?
The CRA says that “A person is markedly restricted if, all or substantially all the time (at least 90% of the time), he or she is unable or takes an inordinate amount of time to do one or more of the basic activities of daily living, even with therapy (other than life-sustaining therapy) and the use of appropriate devices and medication.”
If you have an ostomy, then you are markedly restricted 100% of the time (your bag is on 24/7).
“Inordinate amount of time”
The CRA defines this as an activity (listed below) that takes three or more times longer than someone without an impairment. As you’ll see further on, this won’t be difficult to meet for most ostomates.
How to Apply
Applying for DTC is really easy and you can either do it for yourself or for someone in your care.
I’ve seen a few places who offer the service of doing this for you, but they take a big cut of your credit and it’s honestly not hard to do on your own.
- To get started, you will have to print off Form T2201, which is available HERE.
- Complete as much as you can from “Part A”, which is basic information about who you are, whether you’re applying on behalf of a partner or dependant, whether you want the CRA to adjust your income tax returns if you’re approved, and your signature.
- You’ll have to get your doctor to fill out “Part B”, which explains your disability. If you have an ostomy then you can have your family doctor, surgeon, or gastroenterologist complete those extra parts. If you have other health problems (including IBD) that impair certain aspects of your life, you have the appropriate specialist complete other parts, too.
I would HIGHLY suggest that you make an appointment with your doctor and have them complete the form while you are there. That way, you’re able to answer any questions they may have.
The form has seven areas on which you can list an impairment (clicking on a link will send you to the CRA page for examples):
- Eliminating (bowel or bladder functions)
- Mental functions necessary for everyday life
For my ostomy, we focused on “elimination”. The CRA lists “ostomy appliances” as one example of a device needed to perform proper elimination.
In the elimination category, you need to illustrate that managing your ostomy appliance takes an “inordinate amount of time” (definition above) compared to someone who goes to the bathroom normally.
Keep in mind that many healthy adults tend to have a bowel movement between three times a week and three times a day (SOURCE). If you have an ileostomy, you may be emptying your bag 10 times a day, plus whatever time it takes to change it and manage leaks.
I had written a log of every time I emptied my bag in a two-week span in order to support my application. I also reminded my doctor that my ostomy is permanent, which satisfies some of the criteria on the form.
In addition, my doctor also wrote down other examples where my ostomy has negatively affected my quality of life.
For these examples, I explained that more planning needs to be made before I do things, including having to do an appliance change before outings or making more frequent stops along the way to a destination to manage my appliance. These examples need to be related to the “elimination” part of your application and shouldn’t include things outside of this category.
The more your doctor writes the better, but be honest about what you tell them.
- Once you’ve got all that filled out, you can mail it to your appropriate tax office.
It can take a while to get back your approval – weeks to months – so don’t freak out if you don’t get a letter back right away. If you log into the CRA website you’ll be able to see whether they are processing it, and whether it’s approved well before the time you receive a letter.
Other Things to Mention on Your Application
- If you need a spouse or other caretaker to change or empty your appliance, let your doctor know so it can be written down on the application!
- How often you get up at night to empty your appliance.
- Any extra time it takes to manage your urostomy drainage system (or night drainage systems for ileostomates).
- Time needed to manage damaged skin, hernia, or leaks.
- Any other impairments with feeding, dressing, walking, etc. (the form will list all applicable conditions).
And remember, the government can backdate payments if you are eligible for the DTC and qualify for earlier years.
What if You’re Denied?
Try again! Anyone who’s applied for anything through the government knows that it may take a few times before the exact same application is approved. If you continue to get rejected then I would suggest speaking with your local ostomy association to see what advice they can offer you (their members most likely have applied for DTC).
- RC4064 Disability-Related Information – 2016 (Canada Revenue Agency)
- Disability Tax Credit – help yourself (Ostomy Halifax Society)
- Dealing with ostomy supply costs in Canada
- Registered disability savings plan (RDSP) (Canada Revenue Agency)
Assessment of normal bowel habits in the general adult population: the Popcol study. Walter SA, Kjellström L, Nyhlin H, Talley NJ, Agréus L. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2010 May;45(5):556-66. doi: 10.3109/00365520903551332. PMID: 20205503
- Eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit (Canada Revenue Agency)