Sunday, February 23

Maximizing Your Income Tax Refund With RRSP Contributions

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Tax season always brings up questions about one popular savings vehicle: the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). 

And it’s no wonder. The RRSP is one of the most useful and most complex savings vehicles available to Canadians. Not only is it a powerful tool for building your retirement nest egg, but you can also use it to go back to school, put a down payment on a home, and lower your income taxes this year!

RRSP stands for Registered Retirement Savings Plan, and it is a tax-advantaged account available to Canadians to help them save for retirement. RRSPs are always a popular topic at tax time because they can drastically affect your income tax return in a very positive way.

How the RRSP works

You can contribute up to 18% of your gross income to an RRSP each year. In years where you do not use all your contribution room, you can carry unused contribution room forward to future years. In your RRSP, your money grows tax-free until you make a withdrawal, which makes it a great tool to defer, and ultimately reduce, the total income taxes you pay over your working lifetime.

When you make contributions to your RRSP now and claim them on your income tax return, you will pay less in income taxes. This usually manifests as an income tax refund, which can be a huge boost to your budget! You receive your income tax refund now because you will pay income taxes on your money when you withdraw it from your RRSP in retirement.

Want more detail? Check out our post: Everything You Need to Know About the RRSP!

Where should I open an RRSP?

Where you should open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan depends on how you want to manage the money. The most important thing is that you invest in the stock market! You definitely don’t want to leave your retirement funds in a savings account earning 1% or 2% interest, so you’ll want to choose a robo-advisor or self-directed brokerage account instead.

Opening an RRSP with Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple is a robo-advisor that provides completely hands-off investing in the stock market. All you need to do is open an account, add some funds, and they’ll take care of the rest! This is the best option for people who don’t know how or don’t want to manage their own investment portfolio. 

You only need as little as $100 to open an account with Wealthsimple, but you can contribute more if you have it! Once you open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan with Wealthsimple, you’ll be able to make a lump-sum contribution and set up an automatic transfer. Your money will be immediately invested in the stock market on your behalf, so you only have to sit back and watch it grow!

You can get your first $10,000 managed for free by signing up here.

Wealthsimple Review

Check out our full Wealthsimple Review here.

Opening an RRSP with Questrade

If you feel comfortable managing your own investments, you can open a self-directed brokerage account. To do this, you’ll need a minimum of $1,000 and a solid knowledge about selecting stocks and managing a portfolio. 

The best features of Questrade are low trading commissions. Buying and selling stocks on Questrade is only about $5 or $6 depending on the trade and ETFs are free to buy! If you’re a new trader or just an average person that’s not moving tens of thousands of dollars around each trade, keeping your fees low is super important. 

Check out our full Questrade Review here!

Using your RRSP contributions to maximize your tax refund

If you’re curious about how much of an income tax refund you can get based on your RRSP contributions, you can typically find out when you file your taxes. Most online tax software programs have a calculator that will let you test how extra RRSP contributions can impact your return. 

RRSP contributions lower your taxable income

Let’s say you earned $60,000 in 2019 and contributed $2,000 to an Registered Retirement Savings Plan. If you record and claim those RRSP contributions on your taxes this year, your taxable income will be $60,000 – $2,000 = $58,000.

Because you paid income taxes on an income of $60,000 but now your actual income is $58,000, the government will give you an income tax refund for the taxes paid on that $2,000. If you live in Ontario, this will result in an income tax refund of approximately $584!

RRSP contributions increase the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) you qualify for

If you are a parent that receives the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), contributing to your RRSP can increase the amount you receive! Because the CCB is calculated based on your taxable income, lowering this amount with RRSP contributions will increase the amount you qualify for. 

For example, if you earn $50,000 per year and your spouse earns $60,000 per year in Alberta, your total household income is $110,000. At this income, you’ll receive $2,853 per year in CCB or about $237 per month. If you contribute $10,000 to your RRSPs, it will lower your household income to $100,000. You’ll now receive $3,173 per year in CCB or about $264 per month. You’ll also get approximately $3,600 back as an income tax refund!

In other words, making $10,000 in RRSP contributions only cost you $6,000 out of pocket after your income tax refund and extra Canada Child Benefit. The more RRSP contributions you make, the greater your income tax refund and the more CCB you qualify for!

When should you claim your RRSP contributions?

One of the great things about contributions to the Registered Retirement Savings Plan is you don’t actually have to claim them the year you make them. This means you can put $5,000 in your RRSP right now, but not claim the contribution until 2021 or 2025 or another year in the future!

Why would you want to make RRSP contributions but not claim them? The answer is simple: because you have the money to contribute right now, but you can get a greater tax benefit in the future when your income is higher. 

The best part? Your contributions grow tax-deferred inside the RRSP while they wait to be claimed in a future tax year!

For example, you might be 27 years old earning $45,000 per year. You’ve diligently contributed $250 per month to your RRSP throughout 2019 for a total of $3,000 in contributions for the year. You recently changed jobs and received a significant raise, which means you will be earning $52,000 plus a bonus in 2020. Your income could be as high as $65,000! This will push you into a higher income tax bracket next year. To optimize your finances, you choose to 

The RRSP deadline for 2020

You have until March 2, 2020 to make RRSP contributions for 2020. 

This means you can top up your RRSP in the first few months of the 2020 and have it count towards last year’s contributions in order to fully leverage the tax-saving opportunity of the RRSP. Want a fatter income tax refund? Open an RRSP account with Wealthsimple or Questrade right now and make your contributions so you can claim them when you file your taxes!

Start saving now

Many Canadians are intimidated by the many options when to contribute, and when to claim your contributions, to an RRSP. But the flexibility of this savings vehicle can help reduce the income taxes you pay which will give you even more money to save! If you haven’t yet, open an RRSP and start making contributions to give you a tax break for last year, this year, or in the future!

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Money After Graduation Inc. is a financial literacy website dedicated to helping Millennials and Gen Z pay off debt, invest in the stock market, and afford the life they want!

2 Comments

  1. Hi Bridget,

    Great summary – I hadn’t thought to postpone claiming my RRSP contributions this year, but because of my parental leave (and reduced income) it will be a great year to defer.
    Do you have any TurboTax coupons you can send our way?
    Thanks for the post!
    Patty

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