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It's no secret that the population is ageing and that each of us hopes that our elder years are happy, healthy and safe. The number of seniors choosing to remain in their own homes as long as possible is significant yet they may be wondering how long they can safely continue to live in their own home. They might be finding stairs difficult, or worry about getting in and out of the tub.

There is good news from the Ontario government. The Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit is a personal income tax credit for seniors over 65 to help them make safety and accessibility changes to their homes. This tax credit is also available to those who live with a senior family member and want to make their home safer and more comfortable. As my own elderly parents are fortunate enough to be living independently, the ability to enhance safety features through the Healthy Homes Tax Credit is a welcome benefit.

New in 2012, this tax credit is calculated as 15% on a maximum of $10,000, or $1,500, of the annual eligible expenses you claim. For the 2012 tax year only, the eligible expenses would be incurred between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2012. For future years, you can claim expenses within that calendar year. For example, you can claim that walk-in bathtub you installed in November 2011 on your 2012 tax return. When you add the grab bars in the bathroom and handrails in the hallway in April 2013, you can claim these on your 2013 tax return.

Some examples of eligible work include non-slip bathroom flooring, installing a hand-held shower, easy-to-operate door locks and levered taps and door handles, and grab bars around toilets and tubs. More extensive renovations, such as those for wheelchair accessibility, are also included in the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. Wheelchair ramps, wheel-in showers, widening of doorways and corridors, accessible light switches and lowering of counters and cupboards in kitchens and bathrooms are all included as eligible expenses. For family members, providing a first floor or secondary suite for a senior family member would also be covered under this program. And the best part is this tax credit is available regardless of your annual income.

If you’re handy, you can do the work yourself and still qualify. Be sure to check the list of eligible expenses before you begin. Remember to check with your local building department for any permits you may need. Save all your receipts for Revenue Canada to verify your expenses. If you’re hiring a contractor, exercise due diligence and do your research for any work done on your home. Make sure contractors are specifically qualified and experienced in accessibility renovations.

With the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit, more seniors will be able to make the changes they need to stay in their homes longer and live safer and with more self-sufficiency. Families with a senior member will be able to make changes to make their lives easier and safer. It’s win-win!

To learn more about this new program, visit The Ontario Government's Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit page.

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