Angela Lusignan is not your typical young entrepreneur. Disabled since birth, the 28-year-old is not able to communicate verbally with customers, yet the online business she runs out of her home in Coquitlam, B.C., has flourished in its first two years.
Kevin Lusignan credits his daughter’s tenacity and her new iPad for the success of her company, Dis Da Bomb luxury bath products. At a recent conference in Whistler, Ms. Lusignan, who has cerebral palsy and microcephaly, made $600 in sales using Proloquo, an iPad app that speaks for her based on the commands she enters.
“She was out there working the crowd with her talking computer and handing out business cards,” Mr. Lusignan says with pride. “I watched my daughter change her role, which was before a person with a disability who needed staff, into a businesswoman.”
The iPad is a “game changer” for people with disabilities and should be a tax-deductible medical expense, Mr. Lusignan says.
It may be just a matter of time, says Jack Styan, managing director of the RDSP Resource Centre. Canada Revenue Agency has a list several pages long of what qualifies as a medical expense, including “Bliss Symbol Boards” and similar devices used by people with speech impairments. Maybe iPads will qualify some day, Mr. Styan says.
He suggests disabled people and their families think beyond the usual medical expenses when preparing their taxes, and offers these additional tax tips:
1. Apply for the disability tax credit.
Even if you don’t have any taxable income, you should apply for the disability tax credit, Mr. Styan says. The disability tax credit qualifies recipients for the other benefits the government extends, including the Registered Disability Savings Plan and the Canada Child Disability Benefit.
2. Consider non-physical disabilities.
The disability tax credit is available to people with “a severe and prolonged impairment in a physical or mental function.” Some people may not even realize they qualify, Mr. Styan says. For example, people with conditions ranging from learning disabilities to depression might qualify, depending on how their conditions affect their daily lives.
3. Open a Registered Disability Savings Plan.
By opening an RDSP, even those with no taxable income can benefit from the Canada Disability Savings Bond, which provides up to $1,000 a year regardless of whether the recipient makes personal contributions. Contributing to an RDSP also qualifies the account holder for the Canada Disability Savings Grant. In addition, new tax rules allow you to carry forward unused government grants and bonds as far back as 2008. So for those who qualify for the bond, simply opening an RDSP in 2011 will get them up to $4,000.
4. Look into disability tax credit transfers.
In cases where a disabled person has little income and cannot make use of the disability tax credit, it may be possible to transfer it to a relative who is providing care or financial support. If the disabling condition has been present for some time, it may also be possible to apply for the credit retroactively, going back up to 10 years, under the Taxpayer Relief Provisions.
Research your eligibility
Here are some related tax benefits you may qualify for:
Canada Child Disability Benefit: If you are raising a special-needs child younger than 18 who qualifies for the disability amount, you are eligible to receive this benefit.
Child Care Expenses: If your child is mentally or physically infirm, you can claim child care expenses for an additional two years, until the child turns 18.
Caregiver Amount: If you have a disabled adult living with you, you may be able to claim the caregiver amount.
Amount for Infirm Dependant: If you support a disabled adult who is not a spouse and not living with you, you may be able to claim this amount.
Amount for Eligible Dependant: If you are single and living with and supporting a disabled child, grandchild, brother or sister, you may be eligible.
Disability Supports Deductions: If you pay for disability supports to enable you to perform the duties of an employee, a business owner or a student, you may be able to claim them on your taxes.
Working Income Tax Benefit (Disability Supplement): If you qualify for the disability tax credit, are employed or own a business, and earn between $1,150 and $19,867, you may qualify.