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Cleo Hamel, a senior tax analyst at H&R Block Canada, has this advice for Canadians during RRSP season.
First 60 days: When RRSPs were introduced in 1957, your contribution limit was based on the current tax year so you needed the first 60 days of the year to calculate your limit. Starting in 1991, calculation of the annual limit was altered to be based on the previous year’s income, but the 60-day provision to contribute was not changed.
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Missing paperwork: If locating your 2011 Notice of Assessment is a challenge, you can use the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Account website to find out your RRSP contribution limit for 2012 – without signing up for the full service. But you will need information from your 2011 tax return.
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TFSA or RRSP? There are only two options for withdrawing funds early from your RRSP without penalty: the Home Buyers Plan and the Lifelong Learning Program. If you would like to have greater access to your money or are saving for something other than your first home or a return to school or retirement, you may want to consider a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA).
How did I over-contribute? Over-contributions tend to happen when an employer and employee are both making RRSP contributions. If your employer offers an RRSP matching program, make sure you use that amount when calculating your contribution limit. You are allowed to over-contribute $2,000 without penalty but you cannot claim a deduction for it.
Employer contributions: If your employer contributes to an RRSP for you, it may be a taxable benefit. In order for it to be non-taxable, you must not be able to withdraw funds until you leave the company or retire and you must be able to access funds under the Home Buyers Plan and Lifelong Learning Program.
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RRSPs and younger Canadians: You can open an RRSP account before you turn 18 but the type of investment you can hold may be restricted. That’s because investment accounts require a contractual obligation and minors are not permitted to enter legal contracts.
RRSPs and death: The beneficiary indicated on your RRSP will receive the funds first – even if your will indicates differently. The beneficiary may have the option of transferring the amount to a registered account. If not, the RRSP is considered cashed on the date of death.
Spouses and RRSPs: If you are the contributor to a spousal RRSP, you get the tax deduction but the money has to remain in the account for at least three years. If it is withdrawn before the three years, the contributor has to claim the amount as income even if the other spouse withdraws the money.
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