Some people are living with disabilities. Whatever the cause of the disability, the government provides tax relief to such taxpayers in the form of a tax credit, which is an amount of money that natural persons can subtract from the taxes that may be due to the Revenue Authority. The value of a tax credit depends on its nature since there are number of tax credits inclusive of the disability, blind, and medical expenses credits. There are named after the type of misfortune; hence it is only those taxpayers who suffer from such problems that can claim the tax credits. Some of the credits have positive spill-over effects on the immediate family of the taxpayer. Some of the taxpayers are however unaware that they are eligible to tax credits in relation to their conditions because of ignorance and some due to lack of education. One such credit is the mentally or physically disabled persons’ credit (disability credit).
Taxpayer’s disability credit
The law alludes to the issue of the claiming of disability credit by a taxpayer who is mentally or physically disabled. The taxpayer should be in a position to prove to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that he/she is mentally or physically disabled to a substantial degree, but is not blind. The law requires such proof to be by way of a letter from a medical doctor showing the disability is substantial and permanent, thereby ruling out the possibility of claiming of disability credit in respect of a mental and physical disability of a temporary or transitional nature. The phrase disability was reviewed in ITC 1288 (1979) 41 SATC 126 (R) where the court observed that the taxpayer’s body could not produce insulin and when attacked, he could lose energy to the point of near death. The taxpayer argued that the term ‘physically disabled’ embraces something other than bodily dysfunction or incapacitation such that one would not be able to lead a normal life.There is nothing in the ordinary meaning of ‘physically disabled’ which requires the disability to arise from external agency or to have overt manifestation or precludes a disability or dysfunction within the body. The court held that there was nothing illogical in disease of the body constituting a physical defect or disability provided it is not temporary or transitional especially when it substantially incapacitates a person from functioning normally in a particular part.
Child disability credit
A credit of the specified amount is also granted to the taxpayer, other than a married woman, in respect of each child of the taxpayer who is proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner to be mentally or physically disabled (including blindness) to a substantial degree. This implies that, a taxpayer can only be eligible to claim disability credit in respect of his or her disabled child, if there are records and proof that point directly at the child’s condition that can convince the taxman as long as such disability is substantial and permanent.
Married woman not entitled to child disability credit
For one to qualify for child disability credit, she should not be a married woman. In simpler terms, the piece of legislation avers that single mothers who have a mentally challenged or physically disabled child are the ones eligible for the disability credit. The law defines a married woman as one who is married in terms of a marriage celebrated outside Zimbabwe in accordance with the laws or customs relating to the celebration of marriage of the country in which the marriage is celebrated; or a marriage contracted according to customary law, notwithstanding that the marriage may not have been celebrated in terms of any law relating to marriage. Basing on the definition of marriage, a married woman can thus be viewed as a woman who would have undergone the ceremonial processes of marriage and is still together with the spouse. Such women thus do not have the right to claim disability credits in respect of their mentally or physically disabled children. The law presupposed that the husband is one who would claim the credit, and not the wife which is based on the pre-colonial and discriminatory laws where the husband was considered to be the breadwinner. Due to the with changing socio-economic trends, such laws would need to be reversed to also allow married woman to claim disability credits of their children as long they have not been claimed by the husbands. Nevertheless, if there happens to be any unutilized balance of the credit remaining from the taxpayer, it can be transferred to the spouse.
Who is of a child?
A child includes one’s own child, a legally adopted or step child and also include any baby born in the year of assessment and any child who was under the age of 25 years immediately prior to the commencement of the year of assessment and is a full time student.
Although taxpayers may be eligible to claim the tax credit, it should be noted that the tax credit is not acquired automatically since there is a requirement to prove to the satisfaction of the Commissioner the disability status. A letter from a medical doctor stating the percentage of disability and whether such is of a permanent or temporary nature as well as proof that the disabled or blind child is the child of the taxpayer are required for purposes of disability credit. The ZIMRA would make a determination on the eligibility to be granted the Disabled Persons credit and issue a tax directive if the taxpayer qualifies.
Non-resident persons not entitled to disability credit
Meanwhile, a non-resident person shall not be entitled to a disability credit in respect of his/her disability or that of his or her family member.
Taxpayers should be aware of their rights especially when it comes to the issue of tax advantages in the form of tax credits as this can reduce their tax burden. However, it should also dwell in their minds that all tax credits have certain conditions to be met before one can qualify and also the onus always lie on the taxpayer to prove eligibility of the tax credit being claimed.