February 2023 is now here, and that means that it is officially RRSP season. If you are not sure, if you should be using RRSPs this year, check out TFSA vs. RRSP.
You may be in a position where RRSP contributions are suitable. However, like many people, you may also be a bit of a procrastinator. Remember that there is a deadline for RRSP contributions if you want them to qualify for the previous tax year. The RRSP contribution deadline for 2023 is March 1.
You may have never contributed to an RRSP in the past, and you may not have even heard of them before. Well, it’s a good thing you found this article. We are going to look at what an RRSP is and help you to figure out if contributing to one is best for you.
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What is an RRSP?
Registered Retirement Savings Plans, are tax-sheltered savings accounts. Unlike some pension plans, RRSPs are self-established. They can either be established for you or your spouse. When established for a spouse they are called Spousal RRSPs.
You can set up an RRSP through most financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, trust companies, and insurance companies. If you would like to inquire about what is involved in opening an RRSP in our office just fill out this form.
Contributions to an RRSP are made with Pre-Tax income. This means any contributions made can be claimed as a deduction against taxable income in the tax year the contribution was made, or the following 60 days (i.e., contributions for the 2022 tax year must be made by Mar 1, 2023).
Below we look at the following topics in regard to RRSPs in more detail: Contributions, Withdrawals, Receiving Income, Spousal RRSPs, Transfers, and Tax Benefits.
In order to contribute to an RRSP, you must: be under the age of 72, have available contribution room, and file an income tax return in Canada.
People under the age of 18 can also open an RRSP. However, they must obtain signed permission from a parent/guardian who acts as the signing authority until the child turns 18. If they are under the age of 18 they will also be limited on what type of investments they can make inside the RRSP.
Due to the great tax benefits of RRSPs, the Canadian government has capped individual contribution amounts. An individual is able to contribute the lesser of 18% of gross earned income or $29,210 for 2022. This means that the maximum income that is eligible for RRSP contribution room in 2022 is $162,277. In 2023 this has increased to a $30,780 maximum. In 2024, it will be increased to $31,560.
It is not just employment income that increases your contribution room. Earned income that increases contribution room includes the following items:
Any unused contribution room accumulates and can be used in future years. We will look at this again later.
As noted earlier, contributions are made with pre-tax dollars. In addition to that, the funds continue to grow tax-deferred as well. Tax is paid on any contributions and growth when the funds are withdrawn. Contrary to popular belief, contributions can be made at any point throughout the year.
Many people believe that once funds are in an RRSP, they can only be withdrawn during retirement. Although this is generally the best course of action, it is not entirely true. Once you have contributed money, there are two specific circumstances worth mentioning, where withdrawals are eligible and different rules apply.
One of the most common reasons to withdraw money from an RRSP is the First-Time Home Buyers Plan (HBP). This plan allows eligible first-time home buyers to withdraw up to $35,000 tax-free from their RRSP to purchase their first home.
Any amount withdrawn under the plan must be repaid within 15 years. Repayment begins two years after withdrawal (i.e., withdrawn money in 2018, repayment starts in 2020). When repayment starts, CRA will send you a statement specifying the amount that must be repaid that year. For more info on the Home Buyers Plan, click here.
The second opportunity to withdraw funds from the RRSP is under the Lifelong Learning plan. Much like the HBP, the LLP allows RRSP holders to withdraw up to $10,000 a calendar year for full-time training or education for you or your spouse/common-law partner. There is a lifetime maximum of $20,000 that can be withdrawn. Anything withdrawn under the LLP has to be repaid over years starting 5 years after your first withdrawal.
If repayments for the HBP and LLP withdrawals are less than the minimum required, any amount above the amount repaid and the minimum required is added to your taxable income for that year.
If money is withdrawn from an RRSP, not under the Home-Buyers Plan or the Life-Long-Learning plan, the withdrawal is added to your taxable income. Furthermore, because the contribution was originally made with pre-taxed dollars, taxes are withheld on the withdrawal and the withdrawal is added to your taxable income for that year. Additionally, when money is withdrawn, that contribution room is lost. Unlike a TFSA, where withdrawals can be re-contributed the following year.
No one is permitted to have an RRSP after their 72 birthday. This means that at some point in your 71st year, you will have to convert your RRSP to an RRIF (Registered Retirement Income Fund).
Although you cannot have an RRSP after age 71, you do not have to wait till age 71 to convert it to an RRIF. Conversion can happen at any time.
Once you have converted your RRSP to a RRIF, minimum annual amounts must be withdrawn in the year following conversion. This means that if you converted it in 2020, minimum payments would begin in 2021.
Minimum payments are calculated based on your age or the age of your spouse. Below is a table outlining the minimum percentage withdrawal based on age:
|Age||Withdrawal %||Age||Withdrawal %|
The minimum amount must be withdrawn every calendar year. However, any amount above the minimum can be withdrawn. The only thing to remember is that tax will be withheld on all payments and payments will be recorded as income.
If you are 65 years old, you should consider withdrawing at least $2,000 annually from your RRSP/RRIF, even if the income isn’t needed. When you reach age 65, you are eligible for the pension credit. This means that the first $2,000 you withdraw are essentially tax free.
Earlier we mentioned the use of Sp. RRSPs. Instead of contributing to an RRSP in your own name, spouses can contribute to a Spousal RRSP. This entails opening a designated Sp. RRSP not just contributing to your spouse’s RRSP.
Sp. RRSPs can come in particularly handy when there is a large income discrepancy between spouses. For instance where one spouse is an extremely high-income earner, or where one spouse is a homemaker.
Using a Sp. RRSP allows the higher-earning income spouse to claim the income tax deduction while at the same time ensuring retirement income is more evenly split. Contributions to a Spousal plan still go against the contributing spouse’s eligible contribution room.
For example, if spouse “A” has the max annual contribution room ($29,210) they may choose to contribute $14,605 to an Sp. RRSP. This means that Spouse “A” now has $14,605 of contribution room remaining. Furthermore, when the funds are withdrawn during retirement they will be taxed in the hands of Spouse “B”.
Note that there are some rules and circumstances that dictate whose hands the funds are taxed in when they are withdrawn. The most notable of such rules is the attribution rule. This rule states that if contributions made in the current tax year or the prior two years are withdrawn, they are taxed in the contributing spouse’s hands. RRSP withdrawals are based on “Last In, First Out”.
Transferring an RRSP
Once an RRSP is opened at a particular institution, it can still be transferred. As long as you are transferring it from one RRSP to another there will be no bearing on your taxable situation, and no contribution room will be lost.
When the holder of the RRSP dies, the proceeds can bypass probate. Bypassing probate only applies if an eligible beneficiary is designated. This includes spouses, minor children, financially dependent children, or disabled children. However, caution should be taken when designating anyone other than your spouse as a direct beneficiary of your RRSP. Before proceeding, talk to your financial planner to ensure you do not expose your estate to unintended tax consequences.
RRSP Tax Benefits
When contributions are made to an RRSP or Sp. RRSP, they result in a dollar-for-dollar taxable income deduction on your income tax return. So what does this mean?
This means that contributions directly lower your taxable income. Let’s say that your taxable income for 2022 was $95k and you contribute $10k to an RRSP, your taxable income drops to $85k.
RRSPs are a great tax shelter for retirement savings. Whether or not you should be contributing to one is another question. Although a lot of people know about RRSPs, few know all the intricacies that go with them.
Maybe you are unsure if you should be contributing to your RRSP or a Sp. RRSP. Maybe you know you should be, but you have opened one yet. Whatever the case is, contact us! We would love to sit down with you and get a better understanding of your situation and your goals. The first meeting is always complimentary!
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