Are kids sweating over the tax credit?


Vancouver parents said the children’s fitness tax credit needs improvement if the government wants more children to engage in physical activity.

The federal government introduced the children’s fitness tax credit in 2007 to help facilitate children’s access to sports and promote physical fitness at an early age. Parents can claim up to $500 per year for fees paid for each child under 16, as long as the child participated in an eligible program.

Tax credits not effective, according to YMCA

“[The tax credit] has helped, but it’s not nearly enough,” said YMCA member Christine Ko.

Ko is a single mother of two boys and she doesn’t find the tax credit to be effective.

“I am not really saving that much money…and when it come down to it, it doesn’t affect the participation of my kids,” Ko added.

The non-refundable tax credit is calculated by multiplying the amount spent on physical activity to a maximum of $500 by the lowest personal income tax rate (15%), which equates to a maximum of $75 rebate for each child.

Programs have certain requirements for tax credit

Eligible programs must go at least one session per week for a minimum of eight consecutive weeks. It must also be supervised, suitable for children and include a significant amount of physical activity that contributes to cardio-respiratory endurance, plus one or more of: muscular strength, endurance, flexibility or balance according to the government of Canada website.

“There’s still a lot to improve on, and right now the money you save isn’t enough to help families make the decision to put their kids into sports,” said YMCA member Helen Ward. “[The government] will have to make some changes if they want to use [the tax credit] to promote fitness.”

Majority of Canadians not seeing improvement in physical activity

A 2009 survey published in the BioMed Central Public Health journal showed only 15.6 per cent of the 2,135 Canadians surveyed believed the tax credit had increased their child’s participation in physical activity. The tax credit program has cost taxpayers over half a billion dollars since its introduction.

In 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a news conference that the children’s fitness tax credit benefits roughly 1.4-million Canadian families annually. He went on to say that if his Conservative government is re-elected in 2015, he would double the children’s fitness tax credit from $500 to $1000, which in turn doubles the $75 rebate to $150.

Harper has also pledged to introduce an adult version of the current children’s fitness tax credit that could potentially cost $268-million over 5 years.

Christine Ko (middle) stands with her two kids, Nicolas (left) and Matthew (right). Ko believes the tax credit is not enough.

Reported by Leslie Kam


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