Resource Guide for Family Caregivers
Federal government services

Old Age Security Pension

The Old Age Security (OAS) pension is a federally funded basic monthly pension that all Canadian citizens or landed legal residents receive who have reached the age of 65 and have lived in Canada for at least ten years after reaching age 18. To receive the OAS pension, you must apply six months before your 65th birthday or six months before the date of eligibility. If you do not qualify for a full OAS pension, you may qualify under an international agreement.

Guaranteed Income Supplement

The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is an income- tested, monthly benefit for OAS pensioners who have limited income, apart from the OAS pension. To receive GIS, you must apply using an application form available at Human Resources and Development Canada offices. You must be a resident of Canada, and your income must be at or below the qualifying level. If you are married (legal or common-law), you and your spouse must have a combined income below the qualifying level. To ensure continuing entitlement to the GIS, clients must provide their income information each year, either through a renewal application or through Revenue Canada by filing an income tax return.

Spouse’s/Widowed Spouse’s Allowance

The Spouse’s Allowance (SPA) is a monthly benefit payable to the 60 to 64-year-old spouse of an OAS pensioner and is based on the combined income of the couple. The Widowed Spouse’s Allowance (WSA) is a monthly benefit payable to a low-income widowed person 60 to 64 years of age, based on his or her own income. In addition to the age and income requirements, recipients must have lived in Canada for at least 10 years after age 18 and be a Canadian citizen or legal resident of Canada.

Canada Pension Plan

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) provides a retirement pension and other benefits for those who have contributed to the plan through paid employment in Canada. The level and duration of contributions determines the amount of the CPP benefit. Canada Pension Plan retirement benefits may begin as early as age 60. The CPP is fully indexed to the cost of living and increases annually. You should apply for CPP at least six months before you want to receive it.

If you have contributed to the CPP for the necessary number of years, your estate may apply to receive a lump-sum benefit upon your death. Your legal or common-law spouse may be eligible to receive a survivor’s pension if he or she meets certain requirements. Your children will receive benefits until they reach age 18, or up to age 25 if they continue to attend school full- time.

Applications for Canada Pension Plan benefits are available from any federal Human Resources Development Canada office.

Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada offers a wide range of services and benefits to qualified, eligible veterans and their dependants, members and ex- members of the Armed Forces, and members and ex-members of the RCMP.  Services and benefits may include a disability pension for war-time special duty and regular force veterans; an economic support allowance; health care (for example, dental care, glasses, hearing aid, medication, and medical equipment); contributions towards home care; and funeral and burial assistance.

Income Tax Deductions and Credits

Additional financial support is available through a variety of income tax deductions and credits. If you are a caregiver or someone who is receiving care, these tax credits are worth a close look. Reducing federal and provincial income taxes can help relieve some of the financial pressure associated with providing care.

Caregiver credit

If you are a caregiver, you may be eligible for a credit if you maintained a dwelling where both you and a dependant lived at any

time during the year. The dependant must meet the following criteria:

  • be your child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, niece, nephew, parent or grandparent, and a resident of Canada;
  • be 18 or over at the time they are living with you;
  • have a net income specified on tax form;
  • be dependent because of mental or physical infirmity; and 
  • be born in 1940 or earlier if a parent or grandparent (including in-laws).

If you and another person support the same dependant, you may split the claim.

Infirm dependant deduction

You may claim a deduction for each infirm relative dependent on you or your spouse. The dependant must meet the following criteria:

  • be 18 years of age or older at the end of the year;
  • be you or your spouse’s father, stepfather, mother, stepmother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew;
  • be a resident of Canada at some time during the year; and,
  • be dependent on you at some time during the year by reason of mental or physical infirmity.

Personal disability credit

A person with a disability may claim a credit if a qualified professional certifies that:

  • a severe mental or physical impairment markedly restricted all, or almost all, of the person’s basic activities of daily living during the year; and,
  • the impairment was prolonged, which means it lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months

Only doctors, optometrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and audiologists are qualified to certify impairment.

Medical expenses credit

You may claim a credit for medical expenses that you or your spouse paid for yourself or your spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, or nephews who depended on you for support. You may claim previously unclaimed expenses for any 12 month period ending in the year for which you are reporting. You may carry any unclaimed medical expenses forward to future years.

Your total medical expenses must meet a specified amount or a specified per cent of your net income, whichever is less.

Eligible expenses include professional medical services, equipment and supplies, medicines, medical treatments, lab exams and tests, hospital services, ambulance, attendant care, private health services, guide or hearing animals, nursing or group home fees, and travel expenses for medical treatment.

Basic personal credit

All taxpayers may claim a personal amount credit.

Age credit

If you are 65 years or older by December 31 of the year for which you want to claim the credit, you may claim an extra age credit. This amount may be reduced when your income meets a certain level and at a certain income level, you are no longer eligible.

Spousal credit

You may claim a spousal credit if you were married or had a common-law spouse at any time in the year and if you supported that spouse at any time while you were married. You must have paid a reasonable proportion of the expenses for your spouse.  The amount you can claim depends on how much your spouse earned in the year.

Equivalent to spouse credit

You may claim the equivalent-to- spouse credit if you have a dependant and you were single, divorced, separated, or widowed at any time during the year. The dependant must be:

  • under 18, your parent or grandparent, or mentally or physically infirm;
  • related to you by blood, adoption, or marriage;
  • living with you in a home that you maintain; and,
  • wholly dependent on you for support.

Dependant disability credit

You may qualify to claim all or part of any disability credit for which a dependant (other than your spouse) qualifies. You must have claimed one of the following for that dependant:

  • an equivalent-to-spouse credit
  • infirm dependant’s amount or a caregiver credit

Pension income amount

If you receive pension income, you may be able to claim a deduction that is available for certain pension incomes. Assuming your pension qualifies for the deduction, the amount of the pension will determine your total nonrefundable tax credits.

Spousal transfer credit

Your spouse can transfer to you any part of an age, disability, pension, or tuition and education credit that he or she qualifies for, without reducing his or her federal income tax to zero.  The income tax department trains volunteers to do seniors’ taxes if the income is under $25,000.00.

Contact the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) (formerly known as Revenue Canada) or a local facility for more information on how to access this service.