Most Canadians know that the deadline for making contributions to one’s registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) comes after the end of the calendar year, around the end of February. There are, however, some instances an RRSP contribution must be (or should be) made by December 31st, in order to achieve the desired tax result, as follows.

When you need to make your RRSP contribution on or before December 31st
Every Canadian who has an RRSP must collapse that plan by the end of the year in which he or she turns 71 years of age – usually by converting the RRSP into a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) or by purchasing an annuity. An individual who turns 71 during the year is still entitled to make a final RRSP contribution for that year, assuming that he or she has sufficient contribution room. However, in such cases, the 60-day window for contributions after December 31st is not available. Any RRSP contribution to be made by a person who turns 71 during the year must be made by December 31st of that year. Once that deadline has passed, no further RRSP contribution is possible.

Make spousal RRSP contributions before December 31
Under Canadian tax rules, a taxpayer can make a contribution to a registered retirement savings plans (RRSP) in his or her spouse’s name and claim the deduction for the contribution on his or her own return. When the funds are withdrawn by the spouse, the amounts are taxed as the spouse’s income, at a (presumably) lower tax rate. However, the benefit of having withdrawals taxed in the hands of the spouse is available only where the withdrawal takes place no sooner than the end of the second calendar year following the year in which the contribution is made. Therefore, where a contribution to a spousal RRSP is made in December of 2018, the contributor can claim a deduction for that contribution on his or her return for 2018. The spouse can then withdraw that amount as early as January 1, 2021 and have it taxed in his or her own hands. If the contribution isn’t made until January or February of 2019, the contributor can still claim a deduction for it on the 2018 tax return, but the amount won’t be eligible to be taxed in the spouse’s hands on withdrawal until January 1, 2022. It’s an especially important consideration for couples who are approaching retirement who may plan on withdrawing funds in the relatively near future. Even where that’s not the situation, making the contribution before the end of the calendar year will ensure maximum flexibility should there be an unforeseen need to withdraw funds.

Accelerate any planned TFSA withdrawals into 2018
Each Canadian aged 18 and over can make an annual contribution to a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) – the maximum contribution for 2018 is $5,500. As well, where an amount previously contributed to a TFSA is withdrawn from the plan, that withdrawn amount can be re-contributed, but not until the year following the year of withdrawal.

Consequently, it makes sense, where a TFSA withdrawal is planned within the next few months, perhaps to pay for a winter vacation or to make an RRSP contribution, to make that withdrawal before the end of the calendar year. A taxpayer who withdraws funds from his or her TFSA before December 31st, 2018 will have the amount which is withdrawn added to his or her TFSA contribution limit for 2019, which means it can be re-contributed as early as January 1, 2019. If the same taxpayer waits until January of 2019 to make the withdrawal, he or she won’t be eligible to replace the funds withdrawn until 2020.

The information presented is only of a general nature, may omit many details and special rules, is current only as of its published date, and accordingly cannot be regarded as legal or tax advice. Please contact our office for more information on this subject and how it pertains to your specific tax or financial situation.