What medical expenses are tax deductible in Canada?
Healthcare costs are one of the most overlooked expenses that Canadians face every year. It could be that our universal healthcare system leads us to assume healthcare is free or that medical expenses don’t always appear as line items on our budgets, like gas or groceries.
But the truth is that if you or one of your family members becomes sick or disabled, the medical expenses can be steep. Just think of the many expenses not covered by your employer’s medical or dental health coverage or the steep costs of traveling outside your province to seek additional treatment.
Thankfully, the Canadian government, through the Income Tax Act, offers relief by allowing Canadians to claim eligible medical expenses that are non-reimbursable by a public or private health insurance plan.
Are medical expenses tax deductible in Canada?
Eligible medical expenses can be claimed as a non-refundable tax credit (Medical Expense Tax Credit) in Canada at the federal and provincial/territorial levels. Your medical expenses must exceed a minimum threshold, which for the 2022 income tax year is the lesser of 3% of your net income or $2,479.
What is the medical expense tax credit (METC)?
If your eligible medical expenses exceed the threshold, the Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC) allows you to claim medical expenses paid for yourself, your spouse or common-law partner, or any children under 18. These expenses must be reported on line 33099 of your income tax return.
If you incurred medical expenses for other eligible dependents outside of your immediate family, you can claim them as well. You would use line 33199 for these expenses. Other eligible dependents can include adult grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, or nieces. Only eligible expenses in excess of the minimum income threshold can be claimed.
Note: If you’re using a tax software program like TurboTax or Wealthsimple Tax to prepare and file your taxes, it will allow you to claim the medical expense tax credit by taking you through some guided questions to determine what you can claim.
Who should claim the medical expense tax credit?
While you should always consult an accountant for advice pertaining to your situation, a general rule of thumb would suggest that it’s best to gather all eligible medical expenses and claim them on one person’s return. Also, it will be easier for the lower-income earning spouse to reach the minimum expense threshold. While every situation is different, it may benefit the lower-income earner to claim the tax credit on their return.
List of eligible medical expenses
Below is a long yet non-exhaustive, list of medical expenses that can be claimed in Canada (as of 2022). Note that with most of the expenses on the list, conditions apply. For example, you will often need a prescription from a medical practitioner. Treatments cannot be purely cosmetic in nature, and there are often limits on the amounts you can claim. Before making any expense claim, make sure you consult an accountant or other tax professional or contact the Canada Revenue Agency for full details.
Care, treatment, and training
The first group of expenses relates to the treatment and care of a patient for various illnesses and conditions.
- Attendant Care and Care in a Facility: This includes nursing home expenses, but there are a lot of other expenses that qualify, too many to list here.
- Bone Marrow Transplant: You can expense reasonable amounts paid to find a bone marrow donor, arrange a transplant, and travel, board, and lodging expenses for the patient, donor, and attendants, within reason.
- Cancer Treatment: Inside or outside Canada, as long as it was provided by a medical practitioner or a public or licensed hospital.
- Cosmetic Surgery: Only eligible if the procedure is for medical or reconstructive purposes (not solely cosmetic).
- Egg and sperm freezing and storage
- Fertility-related procedures
- In vitro fertility program
- Laser eye surgery
- Organ transplant: Expense reasonable amounts paid to find a donor, arrange the transplant, travel, board, and lodging.
- Personalized therapy plan: Plan must be for a person eligible to receive the disability tax credit. Other conditions apply.
- Pre-natal and post-natal treatments
- Rehabilitative therapy: e.g., lip reading, sign language training, etc.
- School for persons with mental or physical impairment: Conditions apply
- Fees paid for therapy: The person receiving the therapy must be eligible for the disability tax credit.
- Treatment centre expenses: e.g., expenses incurred at an addiction rehabilitation facility.
- Whirlpool bath treatments: Treatment through a licensed medical practitioner only. Home whirlpools or hot tubs do not qualify.
Construction and renovation expenses
Certain home renovations/changes can be claimed as medical expenses. For example, if you had to build a ramp outside your home because of a mobility impairment, you could claim the construction expense.
Note: Always check with the Canada Revenue Agency or a tax professional to ensure that your specific expense can be claimed.
- Driveway access
- Other renovation or construction expenses
Devices, equipment, and supplies
You may be able to claim the following medical devices, equipment, and supplies. For many of these items, a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner will be required.
- Acoustic coupler
- Air conditioner: Partial reimbursement only; see CRA for conditions.
- Air filter, cleaner, or purifier
- Altered auditory feedback devices
- Artificial eye or limb
- Assisted breathing devices: e.g., CPAP machine, mechanical ventilator
- Audible signal devices
- Baby breathing monitor
- Bathroom aids: prescription needed.
- Bliss symbol boards
- Blood coagulation monitors
- Bone conduction receiver
- Braces for a limb
- Braille note-taker devices
- Braille printers, synthetic speech systems, etc.
- Breast prosthesis because of a mastectomy
- Catheters, catheter trays, tubing
- Chair: (motorized chair for ascending a stairway)
- Cochlear implant
- Computer peripherals
- Dentures and dental implants
- Devices or software for a person with a severe hearing impairment.
- Diapers or disposable briefs for incontinence
- Elastic support hose (for treating chronic lymphedema)
- Electronic bone healing device
- Electronic speech synthesizers
- Electrotherapy devices
- Environmental control system
- Extremity pump
- Hearing aids (includes repairs and batteries)
- Heart monitoring devices
- Hospital bed
- Ileostomy and colostomy pads
- Infusion pump
- Injection pens
- Kidney machine (dialysis)
- Large print-on-screen devices
- Laryngeal speaking aids
- Lift or transportation equipment
- Needles and syringes
- Optical scanners
- Orthopedic shoes, boots, and inserts
- Osteogenesis stimulator (inductive coupling)
- Oxygen and oxygen tent
- Oxygen concentrator
- Page turner devices
- Phototherapy equipment
- Pressure pulse therapy devices
- Real-time captioning
- Scooter: if used in place of a wheelchair
- Spinal brace
- Standing devices
- Talking textbooks
- Television closed caption decoders
- Truss for hernia
- Van: You can claim a partial expense; limits apply.
- Vehicle device to enable a disabled person to drive a vehicle.
- Vision devices
- Visual or vibratory signaling device
- Voice recognition software
- Volume control feature (for a hearing-impaired individual)
- Walking aids
- Water filter, cleaner, or purifier
- Wheelchairs and wheelchair carriers
- Wigs (must be for a qualifying medical condition, not purely cosmetic)
- Gluten-free food products: for people with celiac disease
- Prescribed drugs, medications, and other substances: This includes insulin or substitutes, lever extract injections, medical cannabis, vaccines, prescription drugs and medications, vitamin b12 (if prescribed by a medical practitioner), and more.
- Service animals
- Ambulance service to or from the hospital.
- Certificates: This refers to the amount you would pay a doctor to fill out forms or certificates.
- Deaf-blind intervening services
- Dental services: Cosmetic procedures are not eligible
- Electrolysis: Cosmetic procedures are not eligible. Must be prescribed by a doctor.
- Hospital services
- Laboratory procedures or services
- Medical services provided by qualified medical practitioners
- Medical services provided outside of Canada: Service or treatment must be provided by a licensed hospital facility.
- Moving expenses: the move must be for the purpose of relocating a person due to a severe, prolonged disability. Conditions apply.
- Note-taking services
- Nursing services
- Orthodontic work
- Premiums paid to private health services plans
- Reading services: must be provided to someone who is blind or has a severe learning disability.
- Sign language interpretation services
- Tests: ECG, X-ray, etc.
- Tutoring services: Conditions apply.
- Vehicle, Meal, and Accommodation Expenses: You can claim reasonable travel expenses if you had to travel to receive medical treatment that wasn’t available where you live. Conditions apply. Make sure you keep all of your receipts.
Examples of non-eligible medical expenses
Not all medical-related expenses can be claimed on your income tax return. Here’s a list of a few common expenses you cannot claim:
- Cosmetic surgery and other cosmetic procedures
- Gym memberships
- Birth control devices
- Blood pressure monitors
- Provincial healthcare plan premiums
- organic food
- liquid meal replacements
Can travel costs be claimed under the medical expense tax credit?
If you have to travel to receive medical services that you could not receive near where you live, you can claim your travel and related costs under the medical expense tax credit. Here are some general guidelines:
Travel under 40km: You cannot claim travel expenses if you travelled less than 40km one way to receive medical services.
Travel over 40km but less than 80km: If you travelled one way more than 40km, but less than 80km, you can claim the cost of a public transportation expense, (e.g., bus, taxi, or train.)
Travel at least 80km: If you travelled more than 80km one way to receive medical services, you can claim the cost of your travel, including meals and accommodation.
Travel outside of Canada: If you travel more than 80km one way outside of Canada, you can claim the cost of your travel, including meals and accommodations.
- Note that in the latter two situations, all of the following must apply:
- You could not receive equivalent medical services near your home
- You travelled a direct route
- It is reasonable for you to have travelled to receive the medical services.
What is the disability tax credit?
To claim several medical expenses on the CRAs list, the person must receive the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). Therapy fees are one example. But what is the disability tax credit, and how does it work?
The DTC is a non-refundable tax credit that offers a tax break to people with impairments or to family members who support them. To receive the DTC, it must be determined that you have one or more severe and prolonged impairments that prevent you from performing one or more vital activities, e.g., walking, feeding, mental functions, hearing, and speaking. There is an application process involved.
Final thoughts on claiming medical expenses in Canada
You don’t have to have a major injury or a prolonged and severe disability to claim medical costs on your tax return. It’s worth your time to find out you have an eligible medical expense that you can claim. If unsure, check with the CRA, an accountant, or another professional tax preparer.