The Medical Expense Tax Credit: A Simple Guide

The medical expense tax credit is a tax credit that you can claim when filing your income tax and benefit return.

The Canadian government provides various tax credits that can be used to reduce the tax you pay on your taxable income.

This guide provides you with everything you need to know about the medical expense tax credit.

What is the Medical Expense Tax Credit?

The medical expense tax credit is a credit that can be claimed for eligible medical expenses paid in the applicable tax year or medical expenses that have not been previously claimed.

The medical expense tax credit is non-refundable.

This means that the credits you claim on medical expenses can only reduce your tax payable up to zero.

Any outstanding medical tax credit will not be paid to you.

For example, if you have a medical expense tax credit of $2,500 and federal income tax payable of $2,000, your non-refundable medical tax credits will reduce your tax payable to zero.

However, you will not receive the remaining $500 ($2,500 – $2,000) either as extra credit or payment.

Medical Expenses That Can Be Claimed

For the medical expense tax credit to be claimed, your medical expenses will need to be considered eligible.

Below are the eligible medical expenses that can qualify for the medical expense tax credit.

Eligible Medical Expenses

The eligible healthcare expenses that can be claimed as tax credit include a vast range of medical products and procedures.

Some of the eligible medical expenses are:

  • Expenses for care in a facility such as a nursing home for yourself, your spouse, common-law partner, or dependent
  • Particular care and treatment expenses such as cancer treatments, eye surgery, therapy, organ transplant
  • Construction or renovation costs to adapt your home for medical reasons and mobility impairment issues. This can include installing ramps and increasing passageways to improve mobility or setting up a furnace to relieve specific ailments
  • Costs for medical equipment and devices such as standing devices, phototherapy equipment, bathroom aids, visual devices, wheelchairs, hearing aids, purifiers, baby breathing monitor, etc. Generally, a prescription is required for these medical devices to be eligible for the medical expense tax credit.
  • Certain food products costs. The cost of some medically recommended food, such as gluten-free products, can be eligible for the medical expense tax credit. However, note that only the incremental costs are paid on these products that may be claimed. The incremental cost is the difference between a gluten-free food product and a regular food product.
  • Prescription drugs and medication expenses. This usually excludes over-the-counter medication except for vitamin B-12 in certain instances.
  • Expenses for service animals for certain impaired persons
  • Medical fees for services such as ambulance transport, dental procedures, laboratory procedures, reading assistance services, sign language interpretation services, etc.
  • Travel expenses, provided that the expenses were for medical services that could not have been accessed near where you live and are considered reasonable. Some conditions apply to travel expenses to be eligible for the medical expense tax credit.

Generally, you may be allowed to claim all the eligible medical expenses that you paid regardless of whether they were paid in Canada or not.

If the medical expense has been reimbursed or will be reimbursed, then it may not be eligible for a tax credit.

An exception to this is if the reimbursement has been included as benefit income on your tax slip and has not been deducted elsewhere.

The medical expense tax credit can be claimed if the related medical expenses were paid within 12 months up to the end of the tax year.

You may also be able to claim medical expenses that were not claimed in the previous year.

Additionally, you will be required to keep supporting documentation for the medical expense tax credit claimed, such as receipts for medical devices, food products, medical procedures, letter of certification from a medical practitioner, prescription document, etc.

Ineligible Medical Expenses

While there is a long list of medical expenses that can be eligible for the medical expense tax credit, you need to be aware of certain health-related expenses that will not be covered.

The most common medical costs that you may not be able to claim are expenses for:

  • Birth control devices that have not been prescribed
  • Medication, supplements, or vitamins that can be bought over the counter regardless of whether they are prescribed, except vitamin B12
  • Fitness clubs
  • Certain cosmetic surgeries not required for medical or reconstructive reasons. Surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures such as liposuctions, teeth whitening, filler injections, or hair replacement surgeries are not eligible for the medical expense tax credit.
  • Health care devices, procedures, services, products, travel expenses that will be reimbursed
  • Blood pressure monitors, diaper services, etc.

Claiming the Medical Expense Tax Credit on your Tax Return

If you have healthcare expenses eligible for the medical expense tax credit, you can claim them on line 33099 and line 3319 of your income tax and benefit return. 

If the eligible medical costs are for yourself, your spouse or common-law partner, or a child younger than 18 years of age at the end of the applicable tax year, you will need to claim them on line 3309.  

Line 33199 is used to claim the eligible medical costs paid for other dependents such as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, children who were 18 years of age and above as at the end of the tax year or other eligible family members, provided that they were considered to be Canadian residents at any time in the year.

How to Calculate the Medical Expense Tax Credit

You can calculate the medical expense tax credit in four simple steps described below.

  • First, you need to determine the eligible medical expenses you can claim for the medical expense tax credit, then enter this on line 33099.
  • Next, you need to determine the lesser of the following:
    • 3% of your net income from line 23600 of your tax return OR
    • $2,421 (for 2021, this amount is adjusted annually for inflation)
    • Enter this amount below line 33099
  • Then, you will need to subtract the amount you derived from step 2 from the amount you entered in line 33099.  Enter the result on the next line of your tax return. (For your eligible dependents that classify under line 33199, input the results in line 3319 of your tax return).

Claim any eligible provincial or territorial non-refundable tax credits on line 58689 (line 58729 for other dependents that classify for line 33199) of your provincial or territorial Form 428.

Quebec residents need to refer to Revenu Québec for their provincial claims.

Picture of a stethoscope and piggy bank on white background

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are medical expenses a deduction or credit?
  • Is it worth claiming medical expenses on taxes?

Adeola is a Chartered Accountant and business finance professional. She is very passionate about financial literacy and education. When she’s not crunching numbers, she loves spending time with family.