The province of Ontario introduced the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit (HHRTC) in 2012. The tax credit is meant to assist seniors convert their homes with barrier-free modifications. With its 2016 Budget, Ontario proposes to end the HHRTC as of January 1, 2017. This means time is running out to take advantage of the refund, so there is no better time to plan a home mobility renovation.
Understanding the Tax Credit
The HHRTC is a permanent, refundable income tax credit for seniors 65 years older or homeowners living with a senior family member. There is no income level requirement or limit. Each year, qualifying taxpayers can make a claim of $10,000 or less on eligible home improvement projects. They will receive 15% of the eligible expenses back in a tax refund (to a maximum of $1,500). If you conducted barrier-free modifications at a cost of $1,000, you would receive $150 in credit. Barrier-free improvements totaling $8,500 would return $1,275.
As a yearly tax credit, you can receive up to $1,500 in credit annually. If the proposal to end the HHRTC goes through, 2016 will be the last eligible year.
Safer, More Accessible Homes
The HHRTC is intended to help seniors and their families live in safer, more accessible homes. The HHRTC is intended to alleviate some of the financial burden that comes with home modifications such as widening doorways, adding wheelchair ramps, and installing railings. With mobility renovations, seniors can live healthy, independent lives at home for longer rather than moving to a care facility or assisted living community.
Eligible Home Renovations
If the renovation improves safety and accessibility in the home, it is likely eligible for the HHRTC. These include:
- Bathroom safety/accessibility (non-slip flooring, walk-in bathtub, handrails, grab rails, lighting etc.)
- Kitchen safety/accessibility (lowered countertops, touch-release drawers and cupboards, tap faucets, improved lighting etc.)
- General home safety/accessibility (widened doorways, motion-activated lighting, handrails in corridors)
- Exterior safety/accessibility (wheelchair ramp, automatic garage door opener, additional light fixtures)
Always check before work begins to ensure that the expense is eligible for the tax credit.
Ineligible Home Renovations
Remember, the renovation has to directly improve safety and accessibility to qualify for the tax credit. Examples of ineligible improvements include:
- Kitchen renovations, bathroom upgrades, living room remodel etc. that are not focused on safety/accessibility
- Plumbing, electrical, roof, HVAC improvements, window replacement etc.
- Safety devices (fire extinguishers, home safety monitoring, carbon monoxide detectors) etc.
- Assistive devices (wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds etc. – however these are eligible for other funding programs).
- Home services like home care, housekeeping, and landscaping.
Talk with your contractor in advance to discuss whether a given project is eligible for the HHRTC or not.
Medical Devices Tax Credit
While the HHRTC can be claimed by adult children providing care to seniors, there is an additional tax credit that the individual requiring the modification may claim to reduce taxable income. The Medical Devices Tax Credit covers assistive devices such as:
- Electric hospital beds and therapeutic sleep surfaces
- Lift or transportation equipment (power-operated) such as stair lifts, vertical porch lifts, and vehicle lifts designed exclusively for use by a person with an impairment to allow him or her access to different areas of a building, enter or leave a vehicle, or place a wheelchair on or in a vehicle – prescription required
- Standing devices for standing therapy in the treatment of a severe mobility impairment – prescription required
- Vehicle modification to permit a person confined to a wheelchair to gain independent access to and drive the vehicle – prescription required
- Walking aids – the amount paid for devices designed exclusively to help a person who has a mobility impairment – prescription requirement
- Wheelchairs and wheelchair carriers – can be claimed without any certification or prescription
- Scooter – the amount paid for a scooter that is used instead of a wheelchair
- Renovation or construction expenses – the amounts paid for changes to give a person access to (or greater mobility or functioning within) their dwelling, when that person has a severe or prolonged mobility impairment or lacks normal physical development.
You can claim eligible medical expenses on line 330 or line 331 of Schedule 1, Federal Tax, of your income tax and benefit return.
Ontario Homes and Vehicle Modification Program
Though the HHRTC is expected to end January 1, 2017, there will still be alternate funding options available. For example people with mobility-related disabilities or impairments who meet the eligibility criteria can access funds for home modifications through the Ontario Home and Vehicle Modification program (up to $15,000 yearly for vehicle modifications and up to $15,000 lifetime for home modifications).
Assistive Devices Program (ADP)
Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP) has specific eligibility criteria as well, but you could be eligible for 75% funding if you require the use of assistive devices for more than six months. MEDability can provide you with further information about ADP and the assessment process. The ADP client information bulletin is provided to all MEDability clients who inquire about assistance and is a requirement through the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Whether you or a loved one are planning your return home from a Rehabilitation Hospital, your local general hospital or are living in Long Term Care, it is always your choice who you want to provide you with service and mobility equipment.
And funding assistive so very often forgotten is you medical insurance provider. Check your eligible expenses under Durable Home Medical Equipment or speak directly to a senior consultant at the company. Often front line customer service consultants will need to review the policy to determine what is and is not covered.