When it comes time to file our personal tax returns, we all know the routine. Pretty well everyone looks for a way to reduce their tax bill or to increase their tax refund. There is always a chance that those much sought-after savings will come from an unexpected source. The Medical Expense Tax Credit is one example. It's possible that you have incurred expenses over the past year that you assumed were 'routine' but can actually earn you a heftier tax refund or reduce your tax bill. In other words, this credit can provide tax relief on items that may not appear to be medical expenses at first glance.
A person with impaired mobility can face housing costs that most of us do not. Those who qualify for the disability tax credit because of impaired mobility may be able to claim as medical expenses the cost of renovations to their current house or apartment that enable them to gain access or to be mobile within their home. If they build a new house, they may be able to claim the above average portion of their construction costs that are related to access and mobility. If they move to a house or apartment that is more accessible than their previous residence, they can claim up to $2,000 of their moving costs as medical expenses. Here are some examples of renovations and construction costs that can generally be claimed as medical expenses:
- Adding ramps for a person who cannot use stairs
- Widening halls and doorways to improve access to rooms
- Lowering kitchen and bathroom cabinets to make them accessible
- Modifying the driveway to allow access to a bus
A person who suffers from a severe chronic respiratory or immune system disorder can also claim certain household costs as medical expenses. With a prescription they can claim the cost of the following items:
- An air filter, cleaner or purifier
- A water filter, cleaner or purifier (including a water softener)
- An electric or sealed combustion furnace that is replacing a furnace that is neither
- 50% of the cost of an air conditioner (maximum claim of $1,000)
Here are some other household costs that can be claimed as a medical expense if you have a prescription for them:
- Grab bars and other equipment to assist in the bathroom
- A stair lift chair
Generally, the cost of repairs and maintenance to these items can also be claimed as medical expenses. Not all medical expenses involve medications or treatment by a healthcare professional. The items above are just some examples of extraordinary medical expenses. If you have incurred costs relating to a medical condition or disability and aren't sure whether to claim them under the Medical Expense Tax Credit, be sure to discuss them with your tax advisor during preparation of your tax return.
Contributed by Kathleen Townshend, Consultant with MRSB Consulting Services
If you are a new board member with an organization, congratulations! You are no doubt putting your time and unique skill set toward a cause that you feel passionate about. This can be an exciting and challenging time.
Regardless of your previous board experience, receiving an orientation is a crucial part of starting your new role. Board orientation will provide you with the necessary information to prepare for your role so you feel comfortable and can maximize your contribution to the organization to whichyou have decided to commit your time. The key objectives of your board orientation should be to become familiar with the history of the organization, understand the roles and responsibilities of board members, introduce committees and volunteer guidelines, review the board material and get to know fellow board members. It is recommended that board orientation include all members (new and existing) and that it review some key areas:
HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION
It is important to learn the background of the organization and to highlight its accomplishments, challenges and milestones over the years. The relevant information you glean from this first step will allow you to understand the organization, what it represents (mission and values) and what the organization wants to achieve (vision and goals). Every organization is unique, meaning this part of the process can be pretty interesting.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF BOARD AND STAFF
You and your fellow board members have the critical responsibility to guide the organization's strategic direction, develop policies, exercise financial stewardship, select and monitor the Executive Director's performance and promote the important work that the organization does within the community. It is important that all board members understand their own role, as well as the difference between the role of the board and that of staff. As a general rule for not-for-profit organizations, the board primarily governs and the staff primarily manages. An effective board does not become involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization (however tempting this may sometimes be!).
Committees and volunteers are the backbone of a not-for-profit organization. There are several committee types (standing, operating, or task force) that the organization might have in place. You should be introduced to the committees and their purposes so you can align your interests and skill set with the committee that speaks to your personal and professional goals.
The board manual is an important reference guide for all board members. A review of the board manual will allow you to ask questions that did not arise during other stages of the orientation. A board manual includes several elements such as board and staff contact lists, overview of programs and services, upcoming events, recent board minutes, bylaws, board roles and responsibilities (including Executive Director), committees, volunteer orientation, strategic plan, recent annual reports and financial statements.
Finally, the orientation session is usually the first opportunity for you to get to know fellow board members. An icebreaker (these can be especially fun) or some other activity is important to acquaint members of the group with one another.
MRSB Consulting Services facilitates board orientation workshops that include tools and checklists for your board and can be used on an ongoing basis. For more information please get in touch with a member of our Consulting Services team.
Every two months, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada publish their Business Matters newsletter. The publication offers readers advice and information on topics around ownership and management, technology, saving money and taxation matters, and is a useful resource for professionals in many areas and industries.
The December issue discusses several topics including how owner-managers can prepare for an aging workforce, how to choose a security technology that is right for your data and what to do when your son or daughter comes to you for help with starting their new business venture.
If you're interested in reading these articles, as well as other Business Matters content, visit our News page.