Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

The question

I have questions about spousal RRSPs. First, I understand there is a three-year period of non-contributions to any spousal RRSP before the spouse can withdraw the money without attribution rules applying. My question is: When does the three-year rule start? Is it based on the calendar year or the date of contribution or the year the money was claimed?

For example, if I make a spousal RRSP contribution on Feb. 1, 2012, and claim it as a deduction in 2011, when does the three-year window expire? If I make the same contribution but claim it on my 2012 taxes, is there a different three-year window? And if I make a spousal RRSP contribution on Dec. 1, 2012, when does the three-year window end?

Story continues below advertisement

My second question is: Is there a limit on how much the spouse can withdraw from a spousal RRSP per year, and if so, what is that limit based on?

Chris, Calgary

The Answer

Dear Chris in Calgary,

As you know, the spousal RRSP allows you to contribute to your wife's RRSP and use that contribution to reduce your own taxes. In cases where one spouse is in a much higher tax bracket than the other, this can be a good strategy.

As an example of how it would work, let's say a couple has $20,000 between them to contribute to an RSP, and one makes $100,000 and the other makes $50,000, it makes sense to have the full $20,000 contribution be used for tax purposes by the one earning $100,000. They can do this by contributing some or all of the $20,000 to their own RRSP and/or contributing some or all of that amount to a spousal RRSP. The reason to contribute some to a Spousal RRSP is so that in retirement, you are able to better manage taxes by doing something called income splitting. While income splitting in retirement is now easier to accomplish than before because of newer rules, a spousal RRSP can still help in some cases to ensure that a retired couple have equal incomes and thus pay the lowest amount of taxes. This is especially true if there is a large age difference between the couple.

To answer your specific questions, there is a three-year restriction on the owner of a spousal RRSP making a withdrawal. This is based on calendar years, not the three years from the last contribution. This means that if you make a spousal contribution on Feb. 1, 2012, your wife can't withdraw the funds (without a negative tax impact to you) until Jan. 1, 2015. That is calculated as the year you make the contribution plus two more calendar years. This also assumes that you make no more contributions to the spousal RRSP in 2013 and 2014. If you make a contribution any time in 2013, then your wife would have to wait until Jan. 1, 2016 to make a withdrawal without adverse tax consequences to you.

Story continues below advertisement

After the three-calendar year wait as described above, your wife can withdraw anywhere from $0 to her entire RRSP at any time. There are no restrictions. However, she would need to remember that all withdrawals are taxed as income to her, and to make withdrawals accordingly.



Mr. Rechtshaffen is the president and CEO of TriDelta Financial Partners, a firm that provides independent financial planning advice. He has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business and is a certified financial planner. He also writes a weekly column for Globe Investor.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies