Make the Most of Your Tax Refund
By iA Private Wealth, April 12, 2023
When you get a tax refund, it’s very tempting to see it as a windfall you can guiltlessly spend on things you want rather than need. And while there’s usually no harm in setting at least part of it aside for such expenditures, the reality is that, for most Canadians, the lion’s share of the refund is best used in other ways.
5 ways to allocate your tax refund
Pay down debt. Sending money to creditors isn’t much fun, but it may help relieve some anxiety by reducing your debt obligations (mortgage, credit card bills, car loan, lines of credit, etc.). Especially with today’s higher interest rates, paying down debt can have a huge impact on your finances, leaving you with significantly more money in your pocket.
Invest for the future. Using a tax refund to invest is a proven way for money to earn its own money, which can help build long-term wealth. Your Investment Advisor can help you decide which investments are most appropriate for your objectives, risk tolerance and time horizon. Investing in a registered vehicle like an RRSP, TFSA or RESP also provides the benefit of tax-advantaged growth.
Contribute to an emergency fund. Whether you already have an emergency fund or want to start one, putting away some money for a “rainy day” can be a great use of your tax refund. It’s typically recommended to have several months of expenses in an emergency fund, in case you lose your job, experience a death or major illness in the family, or need urgent home or vehicle repairs.
Donate to charity. The pandemic put a spotlight on the struggles many people face, and how many organizations that commit to helping others deserve greater financial support. When you dedicate some of your tax refund to charitable causes that hold meaning for you, not only are you helping people in need, but you also earn donation tax credits that can lower your future taxes.
Enjoy yourself. As mentioned, it’s often okay to spend some of your tax refund on something pleasurable, like a short trip with the family, a nice night out or a little retail therapy. Just know that your tax refund isn’t “found money.” It’s yours to start with and should be used wisely. In fact, getting a big refund may indicate that you paid too much tax during the year, such as from your paycheques. An advisor can provide guidance on how to ask your employer to deduct less tax from your pay. Sure, that’ll reduce your refund, but instead of waiting for a lump-sum amount you’ll be gaining access to your money throughout the year, which can help you invest regularly or pay down bills sooner.
We can help you with a wealth plan that addresses tax efficiency, so contact us today.
New Tax-Advantaged Account for First-Time Homebuyers
By iA Private Wealth, March 15, 2023
It’s no secret the housing market in Canada has been overheating for years. With real estate prices remaining stubbornly high, many prospective first-time homebuyers are feeling squeezed out of the market.
While there are no instant fixes for the challenges created by insufficient affordable housing, the Canadian government introduced a measure in its 2022 Federal Budget that aims to help first-timers save money to purchase a home. The government is working with financial institutions on finalizing details of the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA), with expectations for an April 2023 rollout.
What is the FHSA?
The FHSA is a registered account for Canadians 18 years of age or older who have never owned a home or haven’t owned one in the past four calendar years. While the account is a bit of a misnomer since you technically don’t need to be a first-time homebuyer, nonetheless the FHSA allows eligible Canadians to contribute up to a lifetime limit of $40,000.
The annual contribution limit is $8,000 and unused room can be carried forward to a future year. For example, if you contribute $3,000 in 2023 your limit for 2024 will be $13,000 instead of $8,000.
The FHSA provides two notable tax benefits:
Contributions are tax deductible – just like your RRSP contributions – so your taxable income for the year in which you contribute will decrease by the amount contributed to your FHSA.
Any withdrawals (including investment-related gains) from the FHSA are tax free, provided that you withdraw the money to help purchase a home.
Like most other registered accounts, you can hold a wide range of investments in your FHSA, from stocks and bonds to mutual funds, ETFs and more. Keep in mind, however, that your FHSA can only stay open for up to 15 years. If you invest in risky securities prone to dramatic price movements, you might not have enough time to recover from significant losses – especially if the securities decline sharply closer to the 15-year mark. The best course is to consult with an Investment Advisor for guidance on the investments that best suit your specific timeline and capacity for risk.
If you don’t use your FHSA to buy a home within 15 years, you must close the account. You can move the assets to an RRSP or RRIF tax free or simply withdraw the funds, but in the latter case the amount will be fully taxable as income.
FHSA, HBP, or Both?
The FHSA is not the only option the government has provided for first time home buyers. The Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP on a tax-free basis to purchase your first home. You’re given 15 years to repay that amount to your RRSP, based on a prescribed schedule that includes a minimum annual repayment (you’re permitted to repay a larger amount in a given year, or the entire amount any time before the 15-year period ends). If you don’t repay the full amount within 15 years, the outstanding balance is considered taxable income.
Whether you should choose the FHSA, the HBP, or both will depend on your personal circumstances. Many people start contributing to an RRSP before they’re ready to buy a home, so the HBP lets you tap into money you’ve already saved. If you don’t have much cash available, it’s not feasible to open an FHSA; but if you can contribute a meaningful amount, the FHSA might serve you better than the HBP since you have no obligation to repay any withdrawals. The FHSA is also useful if you’ve maxed out annual contributions to other registered accounts and want another tax-efficient way to save for a home.
Get in touch with one of our Investment Advisors today for personalized guidance that can help you achieve your dream of homeownership.
Take advantage of the TFSA
By iA Private Wealth, January 23, 2023
Looking for something positive about soaring inflation? Given the rising cost of many goods and services, the Canadian government has raised the 2023 contribution limit for the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) to $6,500, an increase of $500 from 2022. That’s good news for people who can contribute the maximum amount this year, and it may even benefit those who can’t (more about that later).
How does the TFSA work?
In 2009, the TFSA was introduced as another tax-advantaged way for Canadians to save for the future, joining established programs like the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).
While both savings vehicles are valuable, there’s a big difference between them. RRSP contributions are made with “pre-tax dollars” because you deduct the amount from your taxable income. Investment growth in the RRSP is tax deferred until you start withdrawing from the account. TFSA contributions are made with “after-tax” dollars with no deduction on your income tax return. However, investment growth isn’t taxed, nor are any withdrawals you make from your TFSA.
Here's another great feature of TFSAs: since income earned in the account is tax-free, it won’t affect eligibility for income-tested benefits like Old Age Security, Employment Insurance, the Canada Child Benefit and credits related to HST/GST.
If you’re a Canadian aged 18 or older with a valid Social Insurance Number, you can open a TFSA at a qualifying financial institution and start contributing. The federal government sets the annual contribution limit based on several factors, including the rate of inflation. If you don’t contribute the maximum amount in a given year, you may accumulate contribution room for future years.
That’s why, as mentioned above, you can benefit even if you don’t contribute the maximum in 2023. TFSA contribution room is currently $88,000 (i.e., the amount available if no contributions were made from 2009 to 2023). Let’s say you managed to contribute $63,000 to your TFSA over the years. If you have the money available this year, you can contribute $25,000 ($88,000 – $63,000) to reach the limit, or chip away at your contribution room in the years to come.
Just be sure you don’t exceed the contribution limit in any given year, because over-contributions face a penalty of 1% per month. For instance, if you contributed $8,500 in 2023, that’s $2,000 above the limit. You’ll be penalized $20 per month for every month the over-contribution remains in your account. Paying this tax defeats the purpose of a tax-free account, so keep track of your contribution amounts each year.
Also note you can withdraw from your TFSA without tax consequences, and may recontribute the withdrawn funds to preserve your total allowable contribution amount. The only stipulation is that you cannot recontribute in the same calendar year of the withdrawal.
What’s the purpose of a TFSA?
Ideally, you’d allow your contributions to grow in value over time, and then make use of your savings when you need cash flow in retirement. However, there are also shorter-term uses for a TFSA. You could use your account as a tax-efficient way to save for a vacation, auto purchase, down payment for a home or another financial goal. When you need the funds you can withdraw them tax-free and still have the option to recontribute the withdrawn amount in future years.
How should you invest in a TFSA?
There’s no right answer since it depends on your unique circumstances, such as time horizon, risk tolerance and financial objectives. Like the RRSP, many different investments can go into a TFSA, from stocks and bonds to mutual funds, ETFs and more. Work with your Investment Advisor to create a suitable approach to TFSAs that can meet your short-term and long-term needs. For all the reasons listed above, the TFSA is a powerful tax-free investment account, so consider making the most of it for your portfolio.
We can help incorporate a sound TFSA strategy into your overall wealth plan, so contact us today.
RRSPs: Not Just for Retirement
By iA Private Wealth, January 20, 2023
When you think about putting away money for retirement, the tax-efficient Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) probably comes to mind – and with good reason.
RRSP contributions garner an immediate tax break because you can deduct the contribution amount from your taxable income. Using spousal RRSPs, couples with significant differences in taxable income can split their income and lower the overall tax burden.
Any growth in RRSP value (e.g., from dividends, interest and capital gains) will remain tax sheltered until you withdraw from the plan. For many people, withdrawals begin when the RRSP converts to a Registered Retirement Income Fund. Since that usually takes place in retirement when they’re likely in a lower income tax bracket, the tax impact of these withdrawals is reduced.
Other RRSP uses
While the RRSP is ideal for enhancing retirement savings, other strategies for this plan may be viable, depending on your circumstances. Let’s consider four different uses for an RRSP.
Fund a home purchase. Under the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP), you’re currently allowed to withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP to help buy or build your home. If you’re looking to increase your down payment – perhaps to avoid having your mortgage designated as “high ratio” – borrowing from your RRSP can help. Any down payment less than 20% of the purchase price results in a high-ratio mortgage. To protect the lender from default (since high-ratio mortgages are typically riskier), you’ll need mortgage loan insurance. The premiums for this coverage are added to your mortgage payments.
Even if you’re not breaching the high-ratio threshold, increasing your down payment helps reduce your mortgage and saves on interest charges. Spouses and common-law partners can also withdraw up to $35,000 in RRSP funds under the HBP. Be sure to replace the borrowed RRSP money according to the specified schedule (currently over a 15-year period). Adhere to this schedule to avoid any tax consequences.
Fund your education. The Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) currently allows you to withdraw up to $10,000 from your RRSP in a calendar year to help cover expenses related to full-time training or other learning pursuits at a qualifying educational institution. If you continue meeting the LLP conditions, you may withdraw RRSP funds in subsequent years, up until the fourth calendar year following your initial LLP withdrawal, and up to a combined total of $20,000.
Repaying these funds to your RRSP takes place over a 10-year period, typically with 10% of the withdrawn amount repaid each year. The repayment schedule begins in the fifth year after your first LLP withdrawal. Each spouse/partner may withdraw up to the maximum LLP amount, either for individual use or to help fund one spouse’s/partner’s education.
Support children with a disability. The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) is designed to enhance the long-term financial future of people who qualify for the disability tax credit. An effective way of achieving this goal is to transfer an RRSP via your will to an RDSP as a tax-free rollover of assets. In addition to helping your child or grandchild with a disability who was financially dependent on you at the time of your death, this strategy may lead to substantial savings in estate taxes. Note that RDSP rollovers cannot exceed the beneficiary’s lifetime contribution limit (currently $200,000). This rollover will reduce the beneficiary’s contribution limit, dollar for dollar, but won’t impede eligibility regarding income-tested disability benefits for which they qualify.
Gain creditor protection. Much like insurance policies, assets held in an RRSP are protected from creditors in the event of bankruptcy (note that this does not apply to contributions or transfers made within 12 months of declaring bankruptcy). In several Canadian provinces, your RRSP is also protected from creditors even if you don’t declare bankruptcy. Additionally, RRSP assets invested in eligible products like GICs and term deposits qualify for coverage under the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), where the maximum protection is currently $100,000 per qualifying deposit category, per CDIC member institution.
We can build your personalized wealth plan that includes RRSPs, so contact us today.
Will Inflation Impact Your Retirement?
By iA Private Wealth, January 04, 2023
Planning for retirement is a challenge under normal circumstances. It might be many years before you retire, so imagining your future lifestyle, estimating expenses and anticipating your level of savings and income is difficult.
Today’s high inflation and rising interest rates add complexity to retirement planning. For decades, inflation and interest rates were low, making the planning process more predictable since people didn’t worry much about a soaring cost of living. These days, you only need to look at gas and food to recognize that prices have jumped significantly.
Retired people often live on a fixed income, so it doesn’t take many years of high inflation to erode savings faster than expected. For example, the income stream of retirees with a workplace defined contribution (DC) pension plan is linked to how their investments perform. If markets are declining – which typically happens during periods of high inflation – the investments in their DC plan might not generate returns that keep pace with inflation.
Conversely, retirees in a defined benefit (DB) plan could be better off because these pension plans guarantee a specified income stream and are indexed to inflation (partially or fully). As a result, DB plans help retirees withstand higher inflation and maintain their purchasing power. Note that both Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security payments are indexed to inflation, so that also helps retirees contend with rising costs.
Benefits of financial advice
As you plan for retirement, it’s valuable to work with an Investment Advisor. They’re trained to help create and maintain customized wealth plans flexible enough to endure different economic and market conditions. Experienced advisors can also recognize shifting circumstances and make financial adjustments accordingly.
When it comes to retirement planning, consider these four strategies to help you manage the potentially wealth-eroding effects of high inflation:
Diversify your portfolio. As mentioned, many investments decline in value when inflation is high, since rising costs often lead to rising debt. This may prompt people to reduce spending, which negatively affects business growth. However, not all investments follow the same pattern, as high inflation actually benefits some industries, such as commodities like oil and gold. Diversified exposure to industries, sectors and geographical regions may help manage volatility and risk, as some (or all) of your losses will be offset by the winners.
Be selective with fixed income. Similar to the point above, diversifying fixed-income exposures may also help when inflation and interest rates rise. In addition to traditional bonds that many investors hold, your advisor may suggest investing in securities like floating rate or real-return bonds (or funds holding such securities). As market rates rise, these bonds tend to maintain value better and generate more income than traditional bonds. Also, an allocation to GICs can lock in today’s higher rates before they decline, helping you put away more cash for retirement.
Use registered products. RRSPs and TFSAs are proven options to save tax efficiently for retirement. At any time, but especially when inflation is high, you should preserve as much wealth as possible. While your advisor helps you save tax by using vehicles like RRSPs and TFSAs, they also instill a disciplined approach so you can save money regularly, either for investing or as part of your retirement cash reserves.
Be opportunistic. Since retirement can be costly as people are living longer, an important planning goal is building long-term wealth. Over the short term, stock markets tend to decline when inflation is high, but everything moves in a cycle. Eventually the markets will rebound, so if the strategy matches your time horizon and risk tolerance, your advisor may recommend investing now to take advantage of lower prices. As the markets recover, your “buy low” investments could benefit significantly and enhance your retirement nest egg.
We can create a retirement plan that works for you – even in inflationary times – so contact us today.