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Tax planning

Individual savings plans 

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) are available to help Canadians save for their retirement years. In 2009, the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) was introduced to Canadians age 18 and older to provide a savings vehicle to meet any ongoing savings need. 

The tax assistance provided by a TFSA is, in many ways, the opposite to that provided through RRSPs. 

  • RRSP contributions are tax deductible, with both the contributions and the investment earnings taxable upon withdrawal. Withdrawals are included in income and considered in determining eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and tax credits 
  • TFSA contributions are made from after-tax income, with both the contributions and the investment earnings exempt from tax upon withdrawal. Withdrawals will not affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits or tax credits 

Determining which savings plan, or combination of savings plans, is best depends on an individual’s personal situation and objectives. Anyone saving outside of an RRSP would consider contributing to a TFSA first. 

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Comparison of savings options 



Non-registered investments 

Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) 

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) 

Annual contribution limit 

No – unlimited 

Yes – but no earnings requirement 

Yes – based on earned income 

Carry forward of unused room 

N/A 

Yes 

Yes 

Monthly penalty on excess contribution 

N/A 

Yes – on highest excess during month1 

Yes – on excess at month-end 

Tax-deductible contribution 

No 

No 

Yes 

Tax-deferred/-free investment growth 

No 

Yes – tax free 

Yes – tax deferred 

Taxable on withdrawal 

Yes – gain/loss on taxable disposition 

No – tax free except for growth after death if no spouse/successor holder 

Yes – fully taxable 

Withdrawals added to contribution room 

N/A 

Yes – following year2 

No 

Impacts federal income-tested benefits/credits 

Yes 

No 

Yes 

Minimum age to contribute 

No 

Yes – age 18 

No 

Maximum age to contribute 

No 

No 

Yes – end of year age 71 

Interest deductible on loan to invest 

Yes 

No 

No 

Assets used as collateral for loan 

Yes 

Yes 

No 

Tax-free/-deferred transfer to spouse/ common-law partner on death 

Yes 

Yes – if successor holder or value at date of death 

Yes 

Tax-free/-deferred transfer to second generation at death 

No 

Yes – investment income after date of death is taxable 

No – fully taxable unless financially dependent 

Loss denied on transfer-in-kind to plan 

Yes 

Yes 

Yes 

1 Any income attributable to deliberate over-contributions will be taxed at 100 per cent. 
2 The withdrawal of amounts in respect of deliberate over-contributions, prohibited investments, non-qualified investments, asset transfer transactions and income related to those amounts does not create additional TFSA contribution room.

Annual contribution limits for TFSAs and RRSPs 

Year  TFSA ($)  RRSP ($) 

2009 

5,000 

21,000 

2010 

5,000 

22,000 

2011 

5,000 

22,450 

2012 

5,000 

22,970 

2013 

5,500 

23,820 

2014 

5,500 

24,270 

2015 

10,000 

24,930 

2016 

5,500 

25,370 

2017 

5,500 

26,010 

2018 

5,500 

26,230 

2019 

6,000 

26,500 

2020 

6,000 

27,230 

2021 

6,000

27,830

2022 

Indexed to inflation 

29,210

2023

Indexed to inflation


Indexed to average wage growth

Source: Canada Revenue Agency. 

TFSA 

  • Annual contribution limit is currently $6,000 per year. Increases, rounded to the nearest $500, will be applied as warranted by the consumer price index 
  • Tax in respect of over-contributions is one per cent per month on the highest excess contribution at any time during the month 
  • Withdrawals in a year will be added to contribution room in the following calendar year 
  • Any income attributable to deliberate over-contributions will be taxed at 100 per cent. As well, the withdrawal of amounts in respect of deliberate over-contributions, prohibited investments, non-qualified investments, asset transfer transactions and income related to those amounts does not create additional TFSA contribution room

RRSP 

  • Annual RRSP limit applies to the total contributions to all of an individual’s RRSPs, spousal RRSPs, and group RRSPs 
  • Contribution limit = 18 per cent of earned income in previous year up to the annual dollar limit, adjusted for certain pension amounts 
  • For clients over age 18, $2,000 over-contribution is allowed 
  • Tax in respect of over-contributions (beyond $2,000 maximum) is one per cent per month on the excess amount at the end of the month 

Spousal RRSP 

  • Contributor claims tax deduction, but spouse or common-law partner who owns the plan makes all the investment decisions and is the legal owner 
  • Main advantage: opportunity for income splitting at any age and not limited to 50 per cent 
  • Clients over age 71 who have available contribution room can contribute to a spousal RRSP if their spouse is under 72 
  • Generally, attribution will apply on withdrawals made from a spousal plan if there were any contributions made by the spouse in the current calendar year or previous two calendar years

Fact 

The RRSP contribution deadline for the 2020 taxation year is Monday March 1, 2021.

Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) 

Restriction  Details 

Contribution maximum 

Lifetime maximum of $50,000 per beneficiary; no annual maximum 

Contribution age limit 

Final contribution must be made by the end of the 31st year after the year the plan is entered into for all plans, and in addition before a beneficiary’s 31st birthday for a family plan 

Plan age limit 

RESP must be collapsed before December 31 of the 35th year following the year the plan is entered into 

Over-contribution penalty 

One per cent per month of the over-contribution amount at the end of the month 

Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) 

20 per cent of the annual contribution to an RESP on the first $2,500 contributed each year per beneficiary, until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 17, up to a maximum of $7,200; the CESG does not count towards the $50,000 contribution maximum; note the government has enhanced the CESG for low income families1 

Refund of contributions 

Subscribers can withdraw their contributions tax‑free at any time; however, the plan may have to repay CESG 

Educational assistance payments (EAPs) 

Generally, $5,000 maximum payout for full-time students within first 13 weeks of a qualifying education program; no limits after 13 weeks; generally, $2,500 maximum payout for part-time students provided certain conditions are met 

Source: Canada Revenue Agency. 

1 For families with income below the first federal tax bracket, the CESG will increase to 40 per cent on the first $500 contributed to an RESP. For families with income between the first and second federal tax brackets, the CESG will increase to 30 per cent on the first $500 contributed to an RESP for the year. Some RESP providers are currently not offering this feature. Federal tax brackets can be found in the tax tables here

Charitable donations tax guidelines 

  • Individuals will receive a federal tax credit at the lowest federal tax rate (15 per cent) on the first $200 donated to charity, and 29 per cent on any remaining amounts1 
  • An individual can claim an amount for total donations of up to 75 per cent of net income. In some cases, donations of capital property can increase this limit 
  • Donors can claim total donations up to 100 per cent of net income in the year of death and the preceding year 
  • Tax savings can be expected to range between 40 per cent and 50 per cent (depending on the province and any applicable surtaxes) for every dollar donated over $200 
  • Donations can be used in the current year or carried forward up to five years 
  • If an individual donates publicly traded securities directly to a charity, the usual 50 per cent capital gains inclusion rate is reduced to zero per cent. In other words, the tax credit is calculated on the fair market value of the donation but there is no tax to pay on the associated capital gains 
  • For corporations, donations are generally deductible against income subject to certain limits 


For individuals who wish to give cash to a charity: 

  • Ensure that the organization has a CRA charitable registration number. A charity cannot issue a valid tax receipt without one 
  • Many charities will not issue a receipt if the amount of the donation is less than $10 
  • Married and common-law couples can pool their donation receipts to maximize their tax credits. This will avoid having two $200 ‘thresholds’ 
  • Donations can be deferred up to five years when the total claimed will exceed $200. For example, if the donor made a donation in 2021, they could carry it forward as far as 2026. 


1 Donations in excess of $200 qualify for the 29 per cent credit rate, except to the extent that the 33 per cent federal income tax rate applies; and will receive the 33 per cent credit rate on the lesser of the amount of those donations and the donor’s taxable income in excess of $216,511.

.

Employer-sponsored plans – contribution limits and withdrawal restrictions by plan type 



Registered Pension Plan (RPP) Defined Contribution or Money Purchase Plans ONLY 
Registered Pension Plan (RPP) Defined Contribution or Money Purchase Plans ONLY 
Deferred Profit Sharing Plan (DPSP) 

Non-registered savings plan 

Group Tax-Free Savings Account 
Contribution limits 

Minimum plan sponsor required contributions of 1% of a member’s earnings 

Maximum contribution is the lesser of: 

18% of current year earned income and 

Money purchase limit ($29,210 for 2021) 


No minimum 

Maximum contribution is the lesser of: 

18% of prior year earned income less any pension adjustments and 

RRSP dollar limit ($27,830 for 2021) 


No minimum 

Maximum plan sponsor contributions are the lesser of: 

18% of compensation from the employer and 

Half the money purchase limit ($14,605 for 2021) 


No contribution limits 

No minimum 

Maximum contribution limit is a legislative dollar amount per year, indexed to inflation ($6,000 for 2021) 

Withdrawals in a calendar year will be added to contribution room in the following calendar year 

Unused contribution room continues to accumulate in the following calendar year 

Withdrawal restrictions 

No in-service withdrawals of required contributions are allowed

Plan provisions may allow withdrawal of employee voluntary contributions 

Minimum vesting and locking-in requirements are determined by the applicable pension benefits legislation

No legislated restrictions 

Withdrawal restrictions may be specified in plan provisions by the employer 

Legislation allows partial withdrawals while the employee is employed 

Plan sponsor may restrict withdrawals while employed 

No legislated restrictions 

Withdrawal restrictions may be specified in plan provisions by the plan sponsor 

No legislated restrictions 

Withdrawal restrictions may be specified in plan provisions by the plan sponsor 

1 Funds must remain in an RPP until termination of employment, death or retirement. 
2 A plan sponsor can also choose to provide more favourable provisions. 

Note 

For more information about group retirement plans, visit Advisor Portal (login required).

What happens to locked-in pension funds? 

If an individual was previously a member of a pension plan, they may be entitled to transfer their locked-in pension funds to a locked-in RRSP (also called a Locked-in Retirement Account or LIRA). 

Locked-in funds are not generally available for cash withdrawal and must be used to provide some form of life retirement income. Various pension jurisdictions do allow for earlier access under the following circumstances: 

  • Shortened life expectancy 
  • Financial hardship 
  • Non-residency status 
  • Small-balance cash outs 

Partial unlocking when transferring to an income fund such as a Life Income Fund (LIF) or Restricted Life Income Fund (RLIF) 

Depending on the original pension legislation governing a client’s locked-in funds, at the maturity date of the plan (usually no earlier than age 55), the client can transfer funds to a Life Income Fund (LIF), Locked-in Retirement Income Fund (LRIF), Prescribed Retirement Income Fund (PRIF) or Restricted Life Income Fund (RLIF) 

Pension income splitting 

Spouses can jointly elect to split up to 50 per cent of qualified retirement income with their spouse or common-law partner. This can result in a reduction of family taxes and can also minimize the impact on income-tested tax credits and benefits. 

  • For individuals age 65 or older, income from a pension plan and other registered plans such as RRIFs, annuities purchased from RRSPs and deferred profit sharing plans (DPSPs) qualifies for pension income splitting. In addition, the income reported on an annuity, including a Guaranteed Interest Contract (GIC), from a life insurance company qualifies 
  • Under age 65, only income received directly from a pension plan, or received from other registered plans or an annuity because of the death of a spouse or common-law partner, qualifies for pension income splitting 
  • Other income splitting options are available with CPP/QPP and spousal RRSPs. 
  • CPP/QPP allows spouses who are at least 60 years of age to share up to 50 per cent of the benefits earned while they were living together 
  • Spousal RRSPs provide income splitting at any age and are not restricted to 50 per cent


Note 

For more information on locked-in and unlocking rules that may apply, refer to the applicable provincial or federal pension authority. 

Registered Retirement Income Funds 

An RRSP must mature no later than December 31 of the year in which the RRSP annuitant turns 71. The RRSP can be cashed in, annuitized or, as more commonly done, converted to a RRIF. 

Minimum annual withdrawals 

To determine the minimum amount that must be withdrawn from a RRIF in a given year for a specific annuitant, multiply the January 1 fair market value of the RRIF by the factor associated with the annuitant’s age on January 1. Clients can opt to use the age of their spouse or common-law partner if this election is made before the first withdrawal. No minimum withdrawal is required in the year a RRIF is established. To maximize tax-deferred growth in the RRIF, set up withdrawals to occur on December 31. While RRIFs have a minimum that must be withdrawn in a year, there is no maximum. 

Age  General (%)  Qualifying RRIFs1 (%) 

712 

5.28 

5.26 

72 

5.40 

5.40 

73 

5.53 

5.53 

74 

5.67 

5.67 

75 

5.82 

5.82 

76 

5.98 

5.98 

77 

6.17 

6.17 

78 

6.36 

6.36 

79 

6.58 

6.58 

80 

6.82 

6.82 

81 

7.08 

7.08 

82 

7.38 

7.38 

83 

7.71 

7.71 

84 

8.08 

8.08 

85 

8.51 

8.51 

86 

8.99 

8.99 

87 

9.55 

9.55 

88 

10.21 

10.21 

89 

10.99 

10.99 

90 

11.92 

11.92 

91 

13.06 

13.06 

92 

14.49 

14.49 

93 

16.34 

16.34 

94 

18.79 

18.79 

95 or older 

20.00 

20.00 

Source: Canada Revenue Agency 

1 A qualifying RRIF is generally a RRIF established before 1993. 

2 To calculate minimum annual withdrawals for below age 71, use the formula 1/(90-age). 


Withholding taxes 

Generally, all funds withdrawn from registered funds such as an RRSP, RRIF or LIF are fully taxable as income. Minimum annual withdrawal amounts from RRIFs or LIFs are not subject to withholding taxes. For withdrawals from an RRSP and withdrawal amounts over and above these RRIF/LIF minimums, withholding taxes are as follows: 

Amount withdrawn in excess of minimum ($)  All provinces except Quebec (%)  Quebec (%) 

Up to 5,000 

10 

20 

5,001 to 15,000 

20 

25 

Over 15,000 

30 

30 

Source: Canada Revenue Agency, Revenu Québec. 

There is no tax withheld upon death if the deceased owner was a Canadian resident for tax purposes. 

Did you know? 

Federal provisions provide creditor protection to all RRSPs, RRIFs and DPSPs in the event of bankruptcy only, except for DPSPs, contributions made within 12 months of declaring bankruptcy are not protected. The federal legislation does not override provincial laws dealing with creditor protection such as the provincial Insurance Acts or where full provincial protection is already available. 

Under the provincial Insurance Acts full creditor protection may be available to registered plans and non-registered contracts where an appropriate beneficiary is named.

Life income funds 

2021 LIF Minimum/Maximum Withdrawal Percentages 

 


Maximum withdrawal percentage for
Age as at Jan. 1, 2021  Minimum withdrawal percentage (non-qualified) 
ON,1 NB, SK,2 NL, BC3 and AB4 
QC, MB5
 and NS
Federal/ PBSA (LIF and RLIF) 
50  2.50  6.27  6.10  3.92 
51  2.56  6.31  6.10  3.95 
52  2.63  6.35  6.10  3.99 
53  2.70  6.40  6.10  4.03 
54  2.78  6.45  6.10  4.07 
55  2.86  6.51  6.40  4.11 
56  2.94  6.57  6.50  4.16 
57  3.03  6.63  6.50  4.21 
58  3.13  6.70  6.60  4.27 
59  3.23  6.77  6.70  4.33 
60  3.33  6.85  6.70  4.40 
61  3.45  6.94  6.80  4.47 
62  3.57  7.04  6.90  4.55 
63  3.70  7.14  7.00  4.64 
64  3.85  7.26  7.10  4.74 
65  4.00  7.38  7.20  4.85 
66  4.17  7.52  7.30  4.97 
67  4.35  7.67  7.40  5.11 
68  4.55  7.83  7.60  5.26 
69  4.76  8.02  7.70  5.44 
70  5.00  8.22  7.90  5.63 
71  5.28  8.45  8.10  5.85 
72  5.40  8.71  8.30  6.11 
73  5.53  9.00  8.50  6.41 
74  5.67  9.34  8.80  6.76 
75  5.82  9.71  9.10  7.17 
76  5.98  10.15  9.40  7.64 
77  6.17  10.66  9.80  8.19 
78  6.36  11.25  10.30  8.83 
79  6.58  11.96  10.80  9.58 
80  6.82  12.82  11.50  10.48 
81  7.08  13.87  12.10  11.59 
82  7.38  15.19  12.90  12.97 
83  7.71  16.90  13.80  14.74 
84  8.08  19.19  14.80  17.11 
85  8.51  22.40  16.00  20.42 
86  8.99  27.23  17.30  25.40 
87  9.55  35.29  18.90  33.69 
88  10.21  51.46  20.00  50.26 
89  10.99  100.00  20.00  100.00 
90  11.92  100.00  20.00  100.00 
91  13.06  100.00  20.00  100.00 
92  14.49  100.00  20.00  100.00 
93  16.34  100.00  20.00  100.00 
94  18.79  100.00  20.00  100.00 
95  20.00  100.00  20.00  100.00 


Note: Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick & British Columbia pension legislation permits LIF clients who begin a LIF in the middle of a calendar year with funds transferred from a LIRA or pension plan to take the FULL maximum payment for the year. First year payments under the other jurisdictions must be prorated based on the number of months the LIF was in force. 
1 Ontario New LIF, Ontario Old LIF, Ontario LRIF maximum calculation is based on the greater of a) the result using the factor and b) the previous year’s investment returns. 
Saskatchewan LIFs must be converted to a life annuity at age 80. 
3 British Columbia LIF maximum calculation is the greater of 1) the result using the applied factors and 2) the previous year’s investment returns under the same LIF contract. 
4 Alberta LIF maximum calculation is based on the greater of 1) the result using the new factors or 2) the previous year’s investment returns. 
5 Manitoba LIF maximum calculation is based on the greater of a) the result using the factor and b) the previous year’s investment returns + 6% of the value of all transfers in from a LIRA or Pension Plan during the current year. 


Tip 

For more information on how LIF maximums are calculated, visit Advisor Portal (login required).

Canada Pension Plan 

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) rates are adjusted every January to take into account increases in the cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. 

 
Type of benefit  Average monthly benefit (October 2020) ($)  Maximum monthly benefit (2021) ($) 
Disability benefit  1,031.55  1,413.66 
Retirement pension (at age 65)  689.17  1,203.75 
Post-Retirement Benefit1  8.80  30.09 
Survivor benefit (under age 65)  450.50  650.72 
Survivor benefit (age 65 and over)  301.48  722.25 
Children of disabled or deceased contributors benefit  255.03  257.58 
Combined survivor and retirement benefit (pension at age 65)  865.27  1,203.75 
Combined survivor and disability benefit  1,115.28  1,413.66 
Death benefit (maximum lump sum)  2,496.65  2,500.00 

Source: Canada.ca. 

1 If you are under the age of 70 and working outside of Québec while receiving your CPP or QPP retirement pension, you can make CPP contributions towards the Post-Retirement Benefit, a fully indexed lifetime benefit that increases your retirement income. Contributions are mandatory for working retirement pension recipients under age 65, while those aged 65 or above may elect not to contribute. If you are eligible, the Post-Retirement Benefit will be automatically paid to you the following year. 


For more information on CPP, OAS and the GIS, visit Canada.ca

Old Age Security 

Old Age Security (OAS) benefit rates are reviewed in January, April, July and October, and adjusted to keep pace with inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. 

Maximum monthly benefit (Jan–Mar 2021)  2021 maximum annual income 

$615.37 

Pensioners with an individual net income above $79,845 must repay part or all of the maximum OAS pension amount. Repayment amounts are normally deducted from monthly payments before they are issued. The full OAS pension is completely eliminated when a pensioner’s net income is $129,075 or more. 

Source: Canada.ca. 

Guaranteed Income Supplement 

The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) tops up the Old Age Security pension for seniors with low incomes. Low-income seniors, 60 to 64 years old, may be eligible for a related allowance if their spouse is entitled to receive the OAS/GIS or has passed away. 

Tip 

For more information on fighting clawbacks, visit Tax and Retirement Services on Advisor Portal (login required).