Monday, August 13, 2012

Overnight Summer Camp - You Can't Claim it All

I loved overnight summer camp as a kid.  It was the highlight of my year to go to camp for two weeks each summer. The camp I loved was pricey, in the Muskoka region of Ontario. I requested the "going to camp" experience each year instead of receiving birthday and Christmas gifts. (Ok, I still received some gifts, but smaller ones!)

My daughter started going to overnight camp last summer.  She also loves it!  But did you realize that you can't claim all of those overnight camp fees as childcare costs on your income taxes?

Camp IS childcare for our family during the summer, as it is for many others.  We use a combination of daycamps and a week of overnight camp.  All daycamp fees can be claimed, no matter the price, but there is a maximum on the amount you can claim for overnight camp.  This maximum amount is in need of being raised to a more realistic current amount.

The daycamp at the local university that my daughter looks forward to each year is approximately $200/week.  This can be claimed, no questions asked.  Even if it was $500/week it could be claimed, no questions asked.

However, for overnight camp for the 2011 tax year:

"The maximum you can claim for expenses that relate to a stay in a
boarding school (other than education costs) or an overnight camp
(including an overnight sports school) is $175 per week for a child
included on line 1 in Part B, $250 per week for a child included on
line 2, and $100 per week for a child included on line 3."

Line 1 equates to children 7 years and younger.
Line 2 equates to children under 17 who qualify for disability tax credit
Line 3 equates to children between 8 and 17 years old, or over 18 who qualify for disability tax credit.

For most "camp aged" children this means you can only claim $100 for the week of overnight camp, instead of the $200 that I pay for daycamp.

I decided to take a look back to see when this amount was last updated.

2001 (10 years ago).  Same amounts as 2011
1999 (12 years ago).  Same amount as 2011, with no disability option.
1998. (13 years ago)
"You can claim payments made to: individuals providing Child care services; day nursery schools and daycare centres; educational institutions for the part of the fees that relate to Child care services; day camps and day sports schools; and boarding schools, overnight sports schools, or camps where lodging is involved."

WAIT.  HOLD IT!!  What was that?? My parents could claim the full cost of overnight camp as a tax deduction for child care, but we can't?  UGH.

I get it, I do.  It's because the whole thing is lumped together as the upper class sending their kids to boarding school, and why should the upper class get a tax break for something that others can't afford.  I'm not disagreeing with that.

What I do think is that the rates need to updated.  That $100/week amount for children between 8 and 18 needs to be raised to $150 or $200/week.  There are absolutely no daycare providers in my area that would charge only $100 for full time daycare for one week, even for a school age child (infant and preschool spots typically charge more than school age to begin with). I've heard from friends that typical school age rates here (and I am NOT in a large city where rates can be much higher) are $30/day, or $150/week.

Will you join me in writing to your MP regarding raising the amount you can claim on your taxes for overnight camp to match what you would pay for daycare or daycamp?

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