Since last week’s entry hit the blogosphere, I’ve gotten an overwhelming response from the BLOG THIS faithful. Tons of people have e-mailed and messaged me in the last week to relay stories about someone they know, or someone in the family, who gets income support from the government, but never has enough to live on. To those who posted a comment or participated in the conversation with me,I feel your pain, and for those who haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about, you can read last week’s entry here.
As a follow-up to last week, I’m here now to tell you that help is here. There is a savings tool out there now that in almost every province, including B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitobia, Yukon, Newfoundland & Labrador and now, Ontario,which can be an investment for people with disabilities without being seen as an asset by the government and affecting a disabled person’s eligibility for income support.
It’s called the Registerd Disability Savings Plan [RDSP] and it has the potential to secure a financial future for many people with disabilities, thanks to contributions from friends and family combined with the matching power of the government’s own funds.
What is this supposed “Godsend”? How does it work? and How can you cash in? All of the details are in this article I wrote for www.bankrate.ca Go there, read it with fervor, but come back because there’s some additional information I need to let you in on right here.
Okay, here we go. Since that article was written, both RBC and BMO have begun offering the RDSP at their respective banks, so once you present them with your last tax return and are receiving the disability tax credit, they will open your new RDSP account. The deadline to make RDSP contributions for 2008 is March 2nd, but even if you miss the deadline for contributions, you can still open an account and start contributing for 2009.
Of course, it all comes down to your eligibility for the disability tax credit. You can see the form, to be filled out by a doctor, here. Now, in order to qualify for the disability tax credit you must either be receiving “life sustaining therapy” like kidney dialysis, or be “markedly restricted” in basic life activities, such as walking, for a prolonged “more than a year” period of time.
Normally, I would call myself markedly restricted in walking as compared to an able-bodied person. However, the CRA definition of markedly restricted means that walking would have to take me an inordinate amount of time, even with adaptive devices, like my cane, all, or mostly all the time. There’s also the category of “significant restriction” that I would fall under for my walking ability. However, to get the tax credit, I would have to be significantly restricted in not one, but two basic activities of daily living, or markedly restricted in one. Weirdly, the CRA criteria does not take into account congenital disabilities that will remain unchanged, but also have the possibility of getting worse due to the natural aging process, possibly right around the time you can start taking out your RDSP money (without penalty) at age 60.
So, while the RDSP will help a lot of people with disabilities overcome the cycle of dependence on the government, it will not help everyone. There are still people with disabilities who need the money, but may not be disabled enough to be eligible for the disability tax credit and cannot get the RDSP. There is an actual panel that evaluates all of the disability tax credit applications and seriously considers each one of them before granting a person the disability tax credit, so this all must be taken very seriously.
However, there is help out there for those questioning their eligibility. You can go to www.plan.ca (as mentioned in my article) and they can refer you to a group of accountants who are experts in filling out these eligibility forms for your benefit and can give you great advice on what to tell your doctor to write. They also have www.rdsp.com, which will allow you to see how your contribution can grow.
Don’t dismay, help maybe on the way!
Aaron is a freelance journalist living in Toronto. His work has appeared in Financial Post Business, Investment Executive Newspaper, and TV Week Magazine, along with Askmen.com. He is a regular contributor to Abilities Magazine and is currently plotting a weekly web comic called GIMP, with artist Jon Duguay, about a handicap school bus driver who wakes up after a crash to find he’s the last able-bodied person on earth — and he’s being hunted.