Andrew Goldman has been writing for over 20 years and investing for the past 10 years. He currently writes about personal finance and investing for Wealthsimple. Andrew's past work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Magazine and Wired. Television appearances include NBC's Today show as well as Fox News. Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts (English) from the University of Texas. He and his wife Robin live in Westport, Connecticut with their two boys and a Bedlington terrier. In his spare time, he hosts “The Originals" podcast.
A Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) is an investment account that can hold mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, or cash savings. Since the money you put into your TFSA has already been taxed, the returns that the account earns are, as the name implies, tax-free.
It’s a great deal (thanks CRA!), but, of course, it has limits. You can put only a specific maximum amount into the account each year. For those who've been contributing the maximum to their TFSAs each year, the most you can add in 2023 is $6,500.
But if you’ve yet to open a TFSA — or if you haven't maxed out your contributions in past years – the total amount you can put into your TFSA this year could be much bigger. How? The maximum overall money you can deposit in your TFSA is cumulative. That means it's the sum of all the allowed maximum annual contributions since the year you turned 18 years old, as far back as 2009. If you turned 18 before 2009 and haven’t opened a TFSA (but do have a valid social insurance number), you can contribute up to $88,000 in 2023 to catch up.Our TFSAs use Nobel Prize winning investing strategy at a fraction of the fees charged by big banks. Plus it takes just a few minutes to get started. Let’s go!
If you turned 18 in a year after 2009, add together the maximum contributions from the year you turned 18 up to the present. In case you don’t happen to already know the max contributions from the past 14 years, don’t worry: we have a table of all of them — along with loads more information, explanations, and potential complications — below.
Past TFSA contribution limits
If you’ve yet to open a TFSA — lucky you! You’ve probably accrued a ton of contribution room with each of the years you missed. And if you haven't contributed the maximum in the past, there's time to catch up. Here’s the TFSA contribution limits for every single year since the program started:
TFSA lifetime limit
The greatest qualities of TFSAs are how much money you can sock away in them and the tax benefits you can reap. Plus, the system lets you catch up if you've missed past contributions.
TFSAs are the spring chickens of tax-advantaged accounts, dating back only to 2009 — we don’t even know what their generation is called, but TFSA does share a birth year with Txunamy, the teen with nearly 5 million Instagram followers and a shocking number of designer purses.
If you’re contributing in 2023 for the first time, you’re eligible to deposit $88,000 in total contributions, provided you’ve been over 18 years of age since 2009 and have a valid social insurance number. If you’ve deposited some money over the years, just subtract that number from $88,000 to arrive at your maximum contribution.
How much can I put in my TFSA?
The maximum amount you can put into your TFSA is $6,500 for the 2023 calendar year. If you have never contributed before and turned 18 in 2009 or earlier, you may contribute up to $88,000.
How to find out your TFSA limit
We’ll give you two ways to figure out your annual TFSA dollar limit — an easy way, and an easier way.
Easy Method: If you turned 18 in a year after 2009, check out the maximum annual contribution limits either above on this very page or on the CRA’s site. Add together the maximum contributions from the year you turned 18 up to the present. If you took a withdrawal from your TFSA in the previous year, add that amount as well. Subtract the sum of all prior years’ contributions from that figure. This number is your current maximum contribution.
Easier Method: Log on to the CRA’s My Account from your computer, or the MyCRA app from your smartphone, and find the information there. Here’s some more detailed information on how to do just that:
Go to the CRA My Account login.
Log in with your preferred method. If you’ve set up your bank as a sign-in partner, this is the simplest way to access your CRA account.
On the Overview page, scroll down to the 'Savings and pension plans' section. Alternatively, you can click on 'Savings and pension plans' from the left navigation bar.
Look for "2023 TFSA contribution room as of January 1, 2023." This value is your most accurate calculation of your contribution room since January 1. Just remember: any contributions or withdrawals made this year will not be included in this number.
Alternately, call the Tax Information Phone Service (TIPS) at 800-267-6999, but make sure before doing so, you’ve collected all the authentication documents listed here.
Penalty for exceeding TFSA limit
One aspect of TFSAs that has proved a tad confusing to taxpayers is how TFSA withdrawals affect TFSA room. A withdrawal will provide you with contribution room in the next year, not the current one. So hypothetically, if, every year, you had contributed the maximum to your TFSA and withdrew $1,000 in 2023, you’d have to wait until January 1, 2024, to get that contribution room back. Even if you were just hoping to replace your withdrawal, a $1,000 deposit into your TFSA anytime in 2023 (assuming you'd already contributed the max for the year) would be considered an over-contribution and subject you to CRA fines.
CRA employees may get a bad rap, but they’re not sitting around scheming trying to get you to over-contribute to your TFSA in order to earn a few extra dollars. In fact, they’ll normally send a letter in the first instance of an over-contribution and allow you to withdraw the excess amount before they hit you with a penalty. But if any over-contribution stays in the account, the CRA will then charge 1% a month of your over-contribution amount until you remove it.
For example, if you over-contribute by $2,000, you'll pay $20 a month in fines until you withdraw the excess. According to this article, if you over-contribute and get fined, you can do wonders by appealing directly to the TFSA Processing Unit in Ottawa. It also couldn’t hurt to enclose a cookie — just kidding! FYI: this 1% tax also applies if you’re a non-resident of Canada for income tax purposes who nonetheless has a valid social insurance number and wants to contribute to a TFSA.
You know where you can find the absolute best TFSA in the universe? A TFSA that employs cutting-edge investment technology, is managed by a trusted financial institution, and comes with all the human advice you could ever want? Wealthsimple. We might be biased, but we reckon we’ve created the TFSA of your dreams. Get started now and you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about.
Open an account for your saving goalsStart investing