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Celiac Canada advocates tax fairness and affordability

Jan 2024

While most people are burdened by the rising cost of food, people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance are disproportionately affected because the gluten-free (GF) diet costs far more to begin with. 

People who must eat gluten free face enormous food insecurity, especially those on low incomes.

Celiac Canada advocates to members of Parliament whenever the chance arises; for example before a Federal budget is tabled or whenever a relevant bill is being discussed, explaining: –

• The economic burden of celiac disease is significant.
• Gluten-free products are at least 74% up to 518% more expensive than gluten-containing equivalents according to international studies.
• The gluten-free community is more susceptible to supply chain shortages because ingredients are very specific and substitutions limited.
• The State of Celiac Disease in Canada Health Survey, (SOC) found
• 2.4% of respondents had to visit a food bank after diagnosis because the cost of gluten-free food was too high. 18% go at least once per month.
• 92.64% of respondents feel that gluten-free food is more expensive now compared to the pre-pandemic era. 35.91% have had to adjust their finances for GF grocery items.
• 85.11% reported the cost of gluten-free food as the top problem our community faces daily.
• A 2021 study in Manitoba found the median cost of 819 gluten-free products was $1.50/100g, compared to $0.65/100g for gluten-containing products, 130% more expensive than gluten equivalents. 

Food inflation

Food inflation in Canada held at 5% in 2023, meaning a family of four needs to spend $1065 more than 2022 for the same basket.

CRA Medical Expense Credit

Celiac Canada is advocating for changes to the Income Tax Act (ITA) to make it easier to get a medical expense tax credit for the excess (incremental) cost of gluten-free products under section 118.2(2)(r) of the ITA. Currently, the process is complicated and laborious. People need to keep receipts, calculate the difference between the average cost of gluten-free products compared to gluten-containing items, and then claim the difference. 

In responding to the CCA’s 2022 State of Celiac Disease in Canada Health Survey (SOC), 80% of 5,600 respondents reported that the administrative burden imposed by the medical expense credit framework stops them from claiming.

Additionally, even for those who do file a claim, the value of the credit can be limited. A medical expense (incremental GF food cost) can be claimed only if total expenses exceed the lesser of

  • 3% of the taxpayer’s net income, or
  • $2,635 for 2023, $2759 for 2024.

 

As an example, someone with $60,000 in net income with $2000 in medical expenses (GF food costs plus other eligible expenses) would be able to file a claim for $2000 minus $1800 (3% of net income)) = $200.

Tax savings resulting from this $200 claim are then determined by applying the applicable federal and provincial tax rates to this amount (e.g., 15% or $30 is the federal tax savings); for more information on these calculations see Moneysense.

A tax credit is also of no benefit to people who pay no tax because their income falls below taxable levels in Canada.  In other words, the poorest of the poor likely derive no benefit from the credit system.

Celiac Canada Recommends:

 

  • Instead of the burdensome calculations and proof of purchase with receipts needed today, CCA asks for a flat fee annual credit amount of $1,000 per individual.
  • CCA requests the credit be made refundable, as opposed to non-refundable. 

Celiac Canada sent an open letter to Parliament via the Standing Committee for Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Food is our medicine. Celiacs need Federal income support.

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