Canada: When Foreign Doctors Treat The Illness, How Does The CRA Treat The Expenses?

Last Updated: September 17 2012

Article by Nathan T. Choran and Susan Farina

Seeking medical treatment abroad has been a growing trend among Canadians. Reasons include quicker access to care than Canada's public health care system often provides and access to alternative treatments or better technology. In addition, with the strong Canadian dollar, Canadians are spending more time away from Canada – whether staying in their foreign vacation properties, attending foreign universities or on temporary foreign work assignments. Naturally, that boosts the demand for medical attention outside the country. This article reviews some of the relevant Canadian tax considerations.

What tax relief is available for medical expenses in general?

Canada's medical expense tax credit (METC) can be claimed for the eligible medical expenses that are paid during any 12-month period that ends during the taxation year (24 months in the year of death).

You can claim medical expenses incurred by you, your spouse or common-law partner and your children who are under 18 years of age. For 2012, the federal creditable medical expenses are reduced by 3% of your net income for the year (to a maximum $2,109). In addition, you may claim medical expenses you paid on behalf of certain relatives without limit, if the relative is dependent upon you for support at any time during the year. Your claim for the relative's medical expenses will be reduced by 3% of his or her net income for the year (also to a maximum of $2,109). The maximum reduction corresponds to a net income of $70,300.

The tax benefit of the METC is equal to your creditable medical expenses multiplied by the lowest federal tax rate, which for 2012 amounts to 15%. Each province and territory provides similar relief for medical expenses − generally based on the province's lowest tax rate for the year.

Can foreign medical expenses be claimed on a Canadian return?

Fortunately, the METC is not limited to medical expenses incurred within Canada. For example, a payment for services rendered by a foreign medical practitioner may qualify as a medical expense. A medical practitioner is by definition a person who is authorized to practise medicine pursuant to the laws of the jurisdiction in which the service is rendered. Therefore, there is no distinction drawn between payments made to Canadian or foreign medical practitioners for purposes of eligibility for the METC, as long as they satisfy the licensing requirements where they perform their services.

What about expenses related to a stay at a foreign rehabilitation centre?

An eligible medical expense includes the cost of the care and training of a physically or mentally impaired individual at a school, institution or other place (such as a rehabilitation centre or out-patient clinic), who has been certified by an appropriately qualified person to be in need of the equipment, facilities or personnel specifically provided by that school or institution for individuals suffering from the same impairment.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has indicated that a patient suffering from a behavioural problem arising out of a mental or physical impairment or suffering from a learning disability, who attends a school or other institution that specializes in the care and training of persons who have the same type of problem or disability, may qualify. For example, fees paid to a detoxification clinic for a patient suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol can qualify, assuming the certification requirement is met. On the other hand, fees paid to a stop-smoking or weight loss course or program would not generally qualify, apart from an exceptional case, such as if it is part of a patient's medical treatment that is:

  • required because of a serious health deterioration problem; and
  • both prescribed and monitored by a medical practitioner.

Again, no distinction is drawn between a foreign school or institution and a Canadian one for METC purposes. Accordingly, even if similar facilities exist in Canada, an individual or a family member could attend a foreign school or institution, with the tuition and other associated costs eligible for the METC, provided the medical certification requirement has been satisfied.

What about alterations to a foreign vacation property for improved mobility?

Renovations or alterations to a foreign property may qualify for the METC if they are made to enable an individual − you or a family member − who lacks normal physical development or has a severe and prolonged mobility impairment to gain access to, or to be mobile or functional within, the property. To qualify, the renovation costs must:

  • be reasonable;
  • typically not be expected to increase the value of the property; and
  • not be of a type that someone who does not have the particular impairment would incur.

For this purpose, the METC does not distinguish between renovating a property located in Canada or abroad. Therefore, should you purchase or own a foreign vacation property, which must be renovated because you or a family member has an impairment, these costs would qualify for the METC just as if the renovation had been made to your Canadian property.

Similar relief may be available for any incremental costs incurred during the construction of a foreign property that enable an impaired individual to gain access to, or be mobile or functional within, the property. However, an added condition is that the home must be a principal place of residence of the individual. That is, it is used more than any other property as his or her residence. In most cases, it would be difficult for a Canadian resident individual to establish that a foreign property being constructed is his or her principal place of residence. Therefore, from an income tax perspective, generally it would be preferable to purchase an existing foreign property and then renovate it, rather than to undertake renovations as part of the construction of a foreign property, because the principal place of residence test does not apply to a renovation or alteration.

Can a medical credit be claimed for travel expenses incurred to obtain medical treatment?

Transportation and travel can be significant costs in seeking medical treatment abroad. Fortunately, these costs are eligible for the METC if:

  • they are paid to a person engaged in the business of providing transportation services for the transport of the patient and/or for one accompanying person if a medical practitioner certifies that the patient is incapable of travelling alone;
  • the destination is at least 40 kilometres from the patient's home, taking a reasonably direct route;
  • substantially equivalent medical services are not available where the patient lives; and
  • it is reasonable for the patient to travel to the particular place to seek the medical services.

If the patient lives in an area where persons engaged in the provision of transportation services are not readily available, the individual may instead claim vehicle expenses.

Other travel expenses (costs ancillary to the actual cost of being transported) are subject to the same limitations as for transportation expenses, except that the distance travelled must exceed 80 kilometres from the patient's home. These expenses include such things as the reasonable cost of meals and accommodation costs incurred while seeking medical treatment. If a bone marrow or organ transplant is required, not only are the travel, board and lodging costs of the patient and one person accompanying the patient eligible for the METC, but so are the costs paid by the patient for the donor and one person accompanying the donor that were incurred in respect of the transplant. Under these circumstances, a medical practitioner need not certify the necessity of the accompanying person, there is no minimum distance requirement to be travelled and the patient does not have to justify why he or she sought the transplant in the place travelled to.

If travel expenses do not qualify, does that affect the ability to claim foreign medical expenses?

Even if the conditions to claim the travel expenses are not met, the foreign medical expenses themselves may still be eligible for the METC. In other words, you may choose to seek medical treatment abroad, even if substantially equivalent medical services are available where you live in Canada. The general rules determine whether or not you can claim the METC for the medical costs.

How are medical insurance premiums and reimbursements treated?

As is the case with Canadian medical expenses, if a foreign medical expense is reimbursed by the province in which you reside or by your private medical insurance carrier, only the unreimbursed portion of the medical expense can qualify for the METC.

Premiums paid to a private health services plan for health and dental coverage for you and certain other members of your household are eligible for the METC. The CRA accepts that premiums paid for supplemental travel insurance coverage can also qualify for the METC, if paid to a private health services plan for hospital or medical care that would otherwise qualify for the METC. When the travel insurance premiums also cover non-medical related items such as life insurance and cancellation insurance, the CRA's administrative position generally is to allow the medical coverage component of the travel insurance premiums as an eligible medical expense, if a reasonable breakdown is provided by the insurance company.


For the most part, Canada's tax system does not limit the tax relief available to a Canadian who incurs medical expenses abroad, regardless of the reasons for doing so. Generally, while income tax consequences may not be a significant consideration in determining your treatment plan, you can factor tax savings into your calculation of the true cost of receiving treatment abroad.

This article appeared in Wealth and tax matters for individuals and private companies, 2012, Issue 2.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions