What Is a Tax-Free Savings Account in Canada?

Part of Building Wealth All-in-One For Canadians For Dummies

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has added to the average Canadian’s bag of retirement planning tools by offering up the new Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). As of January 2009, you can shelter up to $5,000 a year in investments in a TFSA. Although you won’t get a tax deduction for the money you invest, as you would with an RRSP, you can withdraw money from your TFSA tax-free at any time and then replace it the following year.

Like all government-implemented tax shelters, TFSAs have rules. Keep in mind the following points:

  • You can begin to contribute to a TFSA at 18 — all you need is a Social Insurance Number (SIN).

  • TFSA contribution room accumulates even if you don’t open an account.

  • Overcontributions are subject to a penalty tax of 1 percent per month.

  • Eligible investments in a TFSA run the gamut from daily interest savings accounts to stocks, mutual funds, bonds, GICs, and, in some cases, shares in small business corporations.

  • Income earned in a TFSA, including interest, dividends, or capital gains, isn’t taxable.

  • Unlike any other tax-advantaged savings vehicle, you will recover contribution room the year after you make a withdrawal.

  • If you die, the fair market value of your TFSA goes into your estate tax-free but any gain or income that builds up afterward is taxable.

You can make contributions for your spouse to a TFSA, as well as for an adult child or other relative, even a friend, so that they too can reach their own annual contribution limit. You won’t get a tax deduction for your contribution, but the income earned on the money won’t be attributed back to you.