Celiac Canada advocates for tax fairness and affordability in advance of Federal Budget
Updated: March 2023
The issues of food inflation, affordability and tax fairness have been an increasing concern for people with celiac disease. Individuals and families facing food insecurity and fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable.
Celiac Canada has drafted two letters offering solutions in advance of the upcoming federal budget and in response to the recent Standing Committee hearings on food inflation and global food security.
· The economic burden of celiac disease is significant.
· Gluten-free products range from cost 74% to 518% more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts.
· Our community is more vulnerable to food supply chain shortages due to their highly specific and required gluten-free diet.
On May 1, Celiac Canada will be hosting a kick-off event for parliamentarians to launch Celiac Disease Awareness Month and shed light on the issues and concerns facing our community.
Solution #1- Improving Access to the Medical Expense Credit
Celiac Canada has written to key parliamentarians, including the Minister of National Revenue, requesting amendments to the Income Tax Act (ITA). We are seeking changes to help remove the barriers preventing Canadians with celiac disease from claiming the excess (incremental) cost of gluten-free products as a medical expense under section 118.2(2)(r) of the ITA.
Based on CCA’s 2022 State of Celiac Disease in Canada Health Survey, 80% of 5,600 respondents do not claim the cost of gluten-free products due to the administrative burdens imposed by the medical expense credit framework.
Many Canadians – including those with the greatest need for income support – are not able to claim the medical expense. The credit is only available to those Canadians who have taxable income, have medical expenses in excess of 3% of their income, and are liable to pay enough taxes in a given year to enjoy the full benefit of the credit.
Examples of Impact on Canadian Families
· A family of four following a gluten-free diet to protect members with celiac disease will likely spend in the range of an extra $4,000 more on food annually on gluten-free food than, compared to a another family not affected by celiac disease.
· If the taxpayer incurring the cost for the family has an income of $60,000, the value of the tax credit (i.e., the reduction in tax payable) received will be roughly $30, representing a mere fraction of a percentage point (0.75%) of the cost incurred by the family.
Celiac Canada Recommendation:
· Provide administrative relief in the form of a flat fee annual refundable credit amount (approximately $1,000) that the CRA would recognize as a legitimate claim, together with a waiver of any requirement to track grocery spending or retain receipts.
Solution #2: Food Inflation Relief for People with Celiac Disease
Celiac Canada has issued an open letter to Parliament via the Standing Committee for Agriculture and Agri-Food.
We are asking the federal government to provide some financial relief by way of a federal benefit to Canadians with celiac disease to help manage the high cost of gluten-free food.
The economic burden of celiac disease is significant on our vulnerable populations.
- A 2022 CCA study, State of Celiac Disease in Canada Health Survey, found that 2.4% of 5,100 respondents had to begin accessing a food bank after diagnosis due to the cost of gluten-free food. 18% accessed these services at least once per month.
- A 2017 study of 21 grocery stores in the Maritimes found that the median price of 2,226 gluten-free products was $1.76/100g, compared to $1.01/100g for gluten-containing products. In other words, gluten-free products in the Maritimes were more than 74% more expensive than gluten-containing products.
- In Manitoba, a 2021 study of 12 grocery found the median cost of 819 gluten-free products was $1.50/100g, compared to $0.65/100g for gluten-containing products. Gluten-free products in Manitoba were therefore more than 130% more expensive that gluten-containing products.
- International studies have indicated that the cost of a gluten-free diet can be as much as 518% more expensive than a gluten-containing diet in some areas.
Food inflation is hurting all Canadians with celiac disease.
- The cost of food overall in Canada rose by 10.4% from January 2022 to January 2023, with the price of fresh fruit rising by 9.1%, vegetables by 13.5%, baked goods by 9.7%, and meat by 9.8%.
- 92.64% of State of Celiac Disease in Canada survey respondents feel the cost of gluten-free food is now more expensive compared to the pre-pandemic cost of which nearly 1% have now had to access a food bank and 35.91% have had to adjust their finances for GF grocery items.
- 85.11% of respondents to Celiac Canada’s State of Celiac Disease in Canada Health survey reported the cost of gluten-free food as the top problem our community faces on a daily basis.
- As Celiac Canada continues its outreach and research, we expect this percentage to be even higher for households that must also absorb the costs of medically necessary gluten-free food.
Simply put, Canadians with celiac disease face a cost-of-living crisis.
Celiac Canada believes there is a need for additional federal income support to enable Canadians with celiac disease to afford medically necessary food.
We are encouraged by the Minister of Finances’ comments in media interviews discussing potential targeted inflation relief for vulnerable Canadians in the upcoming federal Budget. We would encourage the government to provide additional relief – in the form of a higher value benefit – to Canadians with celiac disease.