Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has made a clear commitment to supporting hard-working Canadian families through various tax credits and income support programs, so that they are there in the times of sickness or disability. Government members recognize that Canadians sometimes have a difficult time making ends meet. We understand there may be occasions when they need others to look out for them, to prevent an already difficult situation from becoming worse. When times are tough, we need to support each other.
I am proud to stand beside my hon. colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and her private member's bill, which will make sure we do exactly that. Bill C-462 introduces new measures that would protect the rights of individual Canadians with disabilities and their families to fair tax treatment.
One of the most important programs to help Canadians with disabilities is the disability tax credit, also known as the DTC. However, those applying for the credit are not always treated justly by some business operators who seem more intent on generating inappropriate profits for themselves than actually ensuring their clients' needs are met.
There have been numerous cases brought to our attention in which promoters have charged up to 40% of the amount of a person's income tax credit, often amounting to thousands of dollars for something that is very simple to do. These businesses are generally just completing part A of the DTC application, a straightforward process that usually takes very little time.
In fact, in my clinic, with many cerebral palsy patients, or in my riding, with a number of disabled constituents, these individuals have mentioned to me that they are concerned about this inappropriate treatment and that they are in need of help.
If for any reason someone with a disability or a family member providing care needs help, the Canada Revenue Agency has agents who specialize in the disability tax credit. They are just a phone call away, and they can assist both taxpayers and qualified practitioners by providing information on both the criteria and application process. Most offices of members of Parliament also provide help to constituents who are in need assistance on this file.
Despite this free and helpful service, many Canadians are turning to promoters who have sprung up in growing numbers in the past number of years. While I certainly would not suggest this applies to all promoters, some of them are known to target and aggressively pursue individuals who are eligible for the disability tax credit, especially if they may be eligible for refunds retroactively up to 10 years. I know this personally from my experience in my clinic, hearing from parents of their challenges in dealing with these aggressive promoters.
Unfortunately, once they turn their paperwork over to these individuals, people with disabilities often end up with as little as 60% of the money to which they are entitled. That is like paying 40% interest on a bank loan or credit card, something that is totally unacceptable, and should be unacceptable and deplorable in the mindset of parliamentarians.
The contingency fees charged by some businesses far outweigh the value of the services they are performing. There is a lot of money involved, money that Canadians with disabilities actually need. In 2012, the federal tax savings for someone eligible for the DTC will be up to $1,132 for an adult and $1,792 for a child under the age of 18 or their family member supporting them. Since these credits can be claimed retroactively going back over a decade, potentially 10 times these amounts are available to eligible recipients.
That is why we must act. That is why the bill put forward by the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke is essential. We have to ensure that promoters do not take advantage of these Canadians with disabilities and recover many of the extra costs they incur for their health conditions.
Let me remind the House about the types of situations we are talking about. The disability tax credit provides a tax reduction to people with severe, prolonged impairment in physical or mental function whose ability to pay tax is limited by their disability-related expenses. The disability should be severe enough to restrict them in their basic activities of daily living or cause a person to take an inordinate amount of time to perform these duties, even if they have appropriate therapy, medication or devices. The restrictions must be expected to last for a continuous period of 12 months or may be present at least 90% of the time. People may also be eligible under the cumulative effect of two or more restrictions, which in combination are present 90% of the time.
Such individuals are already facing serious challenges, so whether it be a child with cerebral palsy who may be a full-time wheelchair user or someone with a spinal cord injury, these are individuals who need this support. The last thing they need is to have some unscrupulous promoter take advantage of them and take a portion of their tax refund, which is owed to them, which they need to make sure they are sustaining their quality of life.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians with disabilities and family members who care for them count on the disability tax credit to help improve their standard of living and their quality of life.
I applaud the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for introducing this essential legislation. The act is an important step forward in creating fair treatment of all Canadian taxpayers. Thanks to her commitment in protecting the interests of her constituents and Canadian families across the country who either have a child with a disability or have a disability themselves, her actions for Canadians will make sure they receive the payment at a reasonable rate if they choose to have a promoter help them complete their DTC application. That is because Bill C-462 would restrict the fees that are charged or accepted by businesses that request a determination of DTC eligibility for Canadians with disabilities.
Public consultations would be conducted to determine an appropriate maximum fee that reflects the value of the services being provided. Once an appropriate fee has been determined, the bill would prohibit charging more than that established amount. The legislation would also require these promoters to notify CRA if more than the maximum fee were charged. A minimum penalty of $1,000 would apply when that limit is exceeded. A promoter failing to notify the CRA when an excessive fee is charged would be guilty of an offence and liable to a $1,000 to $25,000 as a fine.
Finally, the bill would benefit caregivers of people with severe disabilities. It would decrease the cost of applying for the DTC, freeing up more funds so they can take care of the individuals they care about.
I want to underline that the legislation is not aimed at legitimate tax preparers. We have no interest in interfering with regular business practices. We simply want to ensure that the companies completing DTC applications charge rates that represent the value of the service they actually provide and that the funds from the DTC end up in the hands of the people who need it, individuals with disabilities and their families.
This legislation is yet another manifestation of our determination to fully support individuals who have disabilities. We know that initiatives like the disability tax credit are vitally important in assisting Canadians with disabilities. Tax credits are key to our economic action plan, a plan for jobs, growth and prosperity, and making sure the quality of life of Canadians, particularly those persons with disabilities and their families, are well supported.
I call on all parties in the House to lend their support to Bill C-462. Support the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and her excellent legislation that will create a fairness in the tax structure and also make sure that individuals with disabilities, and their families, are supported as they should be.