Breaking Down Barriers: A critical analysis of the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan

Government must fix financial supports for Canadians with disabilities
June 27, 2018

Ottawa – Canada should do more to help the 3.8 million people living with disabilities, particularly, the 1.8 million who have severe disabilities and incur costs that other Canadians do not face.

The Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is urging the government to reform two of its principal support programs that are intended to give Canadians living with disabilities and their families tax relief and help them save for the future.

On Wednesday, the committee released a report, Breaking Down Barriers: A critical analysis of the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan after studying the issue in February.

The Disability Tax Credit helps Canadians by reducing the amount of income tax they are required to pay. The Registered Disability Savings Plan helps people with a disability or their caregiver save for the future by putting money into a fund that grows tax free until the beneficiary makes a withdrawal.

The report makes 16 recommendations aimed at improving both programs. They are divided into short-term objective to make the process for the two programs simpler and clearer, and a long-term philosophical shift in the way Canada deals with people who are in financial distress but cannot advocate for themselves.  Recommendations include removing barriers that prevent people from taking advantage of the Disability Tax Credit and making enrolment in the Registered Disability Savings Plan automatic for eligible people under 60 years of age.

The committee undertook the study after hearing of a sudden spike in the number of Disability Tax Credit applications that had been rejected. Committee members share the concerns raised by witnesses over the programs’ ability to create greater tax equity for Canadians living with disabilities.

Quick Facts

  • An estimated 1.8 million Canadians over the age of 15 years live with a severe disability.
  • In the 2016-17 fiscal year, 45,157 Disability Tax Credit applications were rejected compared to 30,235 the previous year.
  • People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and have lower incomes. In 2014, 23% of people with disabilities were low income, compared with 9% of those individuals without a disability.


“There are too many wrinkles in these programs that need to be ironed out if we want the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan to provide the intended assistance to Canadians with disabilities.”

– Senator Art Eggleton, P.C., Chair of the committee

“Well-intentioned and well-meaning government programs are not as effective as they could be in helping Canadians with disabilities manage the additional expenses they face due to their disability.”

– Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Deputy Chair of the committee

“Complicated eligibility criteria enabled the Canada Revenue Agency to deny access to the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Canadians living with disabilities are counting on the government to fix these programs in a transparent way, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

– Senator Judith Seidman, Deputy Chair of the committee.


Associated Links

For more information, please contact:

Sonia Noreau
Public Relations Officer
Senate of Canada
613-614-1180 |

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