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How to Withdraw RRSP Money Without Paying Tax

Zina Kumok writes about financial planning for Wealthsimple. She has eight years investing experience and five years experience as a personal finance writer. Her work has been featured in Investopedia, DailyWorth, MoneyUnder30 and DollarSprout. Zina runs a personal finance blog called ConsciousCoins.com and she has been a two-time finalist for ‘Best Personal Finance Contributor’ at the Plutus Awards. She has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Indiana University.

Taking full advantage of your investment portfolio isn’t just about promoting growth—it’s also about minimizing loss.

While you want to make sure the money you contribute is earning a reasonable return and growing steadily, you also want to eliminate fees and reduce your tax burden. The former can mostly be accomplished by reading the fine print, but the latter is a little trickier.

Finding a way to reduce what you pay in taxes becomes especially important when you need to access the equity in your account. Making tax-free withdrawals from your RRSP is entirely possible, but it gets a little complicated. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know.

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Home Buyers Plan

The Home Buyers Plan (HBP) is a tax and interest-free loan consumers can make from their RRSP to buy a house. First-time homebuyers can borrow up to $35,000 to use as a down payment. You must be a resident of Canada to apply.

The annual limit for the HBP program is $35,000. If you’re buying a home with your spouse, you can each withdraw $35,000 for a total of $70,000.

You need a written agreement confirming that you’re buying or building a home before you can access the money in your RRSP. You or a relative with a disability must be the person using the home.

If you’ve owned a house before, you must be at least four years removed from living in a home that you, your spouse, or common-law partner owned. If you bought a house in 2010 and sold it in 2013, for example, you’d have to wait until 2018 to use the HBP.

You also must repay the amount you borrowed before becoming eligible for another HBP. Money you withdraw must be in your RRSP account for at least 90 days before you can use it for an HBP.

The amount borrowed must be paid back in 15 years, starting the second year after the HBP was completed. Payments will be evenly divided each year. If you borrowed $25,000, for instance, you’ll have to repay $1,666.67 annually for 15 years. If you fail to repay your HBP, the outstanding balance will be added to your taxable income.

Lifelong Learning Plan

The Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) provides a way for consumers to withdraw money from a RRSP tax-free. You must use the funds to pay for education expenses incurred by you, your spouse, or your common-law partner. (The common-law partner must have lived with you for at least 12 months, be the parent of your child or have custody. You can’t use an LLP to fund the education of your child or your common-law partner’s child.)

The education or training must be a full-time program lasting at least three months and require 10 hours of coursework a week, not including homework or travel time. You have four years from the first withdrawal date to make other withdrawals. If you take your first distribution in 2020, you have until 2024 to make your final withdrawal.

The total amount withdrawn is limited to $10,000 in a calendar year and $20,000 total. You and your spouse or common-law partner are both eligible to use an LLP at the same time without affecting either of your contribution limits.

Money withdrawn for an LLP must be repaid to the RRSP in 10 years or less, and payments must be made in even yearly increments. If you pay more than necessary in one year, you could have a smaller payment the following year.

You can take advantage of the LLP several times, but you must repay the funds before you borrow from your RRSP again. You have to start paying your RRSP back five years after your first LLP withdrawal.

Contributions must remain in the RRSP for at least 90 days before you can withdraw them for an LLP.

What Early Withdrawal Means

The LLP and HBP programs offer a unique opportunity to use money tax-free and interest-free. Unfortunately, there are some downsides to using money from your RRSP to fund your education or home purchase.

When you borrow money from your RRSP, that money can no longer earn interest. Every dollar you withdraw from your RRSP is one less dollar that compounds and grows. Even though you’re not paying interest on your RRSP withdrawals, you’re losing out on future interest you could earn if the money stays in the RRSP.

If you can’t afford to repay the RRSP, things start to get complicated. If you borrowed $10,000 from your RRSP for an LLP or HBP, you’ll have to repay $1,000 a year for 10 years. If you can only afford to pay $500 this year, the government will add the $500 difference as income on your taxes.

Before borrowing money from your RRSP, run your budget and see if you can afford the payments. If possible, practice paying that money every month to see whether or not it’s feasible.

If you discover that you can’t afford RRSP payments or don’t want to sabotage your retirement account, consider using money from a savings account instead, such as the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Money in a TFSA can be withdrawn with no tax consequences. You can withdraw as much as you want for any reason.

TFSAs have a maximum annual contribution limit of $6,000 for 2019. If you withdraw money from your TFSA, the withdrawn amount will be added to your contribution limit for the following year.

Before signing up for an HBP or LLP, consider the consequences of doing so. You might have to forego retirement earnings which could affect when you retire. You’ll also be signing up for one more loan. Make sure to run the numbers carefully so you know what you’re signing up for.

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Last Updated July 26, 2019

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