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24.4 Tax Deferral And Tax-free Plans

Explore different tax deferral and tax-free plans available in Canada, their benefits, usage, and key aspects. Detailed explanation and FAQs included.

3 | Describe the different tax deferral and tax-free plans and their uses.


Understanding the available tax deferral and tax-free plans is essential for Canadian taxpayers to optimize their retirement savings and investment strategies effectively. Below, we take an in-depth look at what these plans are, how they function, and their key benefits.

Tax Deferral Plans

A tax deferral plan allows taxpayers to delay paying tax on income until a later stage, typically during retirement. Here’s how it works:

  • Timing of Taxation: The tax is deferred from the contribution period to retirement. This means you don’t pay tax on your contribution or its growth until you withdraw the money in retirement.
  • Lower Tax Rates: Usually, retirees have lower income compared to their working years, resulting in a lower marginal tax rate when withdrawals are made.
  • Purpose: Mainly aimed to encourage savings for retirement but can extend to other uses.
  • Penalties: Withdrawals made before a specified date can attract penalties.

Common Tax Deferral Plans in Canada

  1. Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs): Contributions are tax-deductible, and the funds grow tax-deferred. Withdrawals are taxed as income.
  2. Deferred Profit Sharing Plans (DPSPs): Contributions are made by the employer and grow tax-deferred until withdrawal.
  3. Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs): For saving for a child’s post-secondary education. Grants are often included, and funds grow tax-deferred.

Tax-Free Plans

A tax-free plan allows income from property to be exempt from all taxes. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Totally Exempt: The growth or income is completely tax-free whether it is from interest, dividends, or capital gains.
  • Flexibility: Funds can be withdrawn at any time without any penalties or taxes.

Common Tax-Free Plans in Canada

  1. Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs): Contributions are made with after-tax dollars and grow tax-free. Withdrawals are also tax-free and can be for any purpose.
  2. First Home Savings Account (FHSA): Allows individuals to save for their first home without paying taxes on growth or withdrawals.

Key Differences Between Tax Deferral And Tax-Free Plans

Tax Deferral Plans Tax-Free Plans
Tax Treatment Tax deferred until withdrawal Tax-free growth and withdrawals
Contribution Pre-tax dollars, tax-deductible Post-tax dollars, not tax-deductible
Usage Flexibility Usually more restrictive (penalties for early withdrawal) Usually more flexible (withdraw anytime)
Primary Purpose Encourage retirement savings Multi-purpose, encourage savings for various goals

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What happens if I withdraw from my RRSP before retirement?

A. Withdrawals from an RRSP before retirement are subject to withholding tax and are included in your taxable income for the year.

Q. Can I contribute to both an RRSP and a TFSA in the same year?

A. Yes, you can contribute to both an RRSP and a TFSA in the same year, provided you do not exceed the annual contribution limits for each account.

Q. How are contributions to tax-free plans treated?

A. Contributions to tax-free plans like TFSAs are made with after-tax dollars, meaning you have already paid tax on the money you contribute, but the account grows tax-free.

Key Takeaways

  • Tax deferral plans defer tax payment to when withdrawals are made, usually at retirement when income is lower.
  • Tax-free plans allow for tax-exempt growth and withdrawals anytime without penalty.
  • Utilizing both plan types can maximize savings and tax efficiency for different financial goals.


Marginal Tax Rate: The percentage of tax applied to your income for each tax bracket in which you qualify.

Withholding Tax: An amount that an employer withholds from employees’ wages and pays directly to the government as partial payment of income tax.

Contribution Limits: The maximum annual amount that you are allowed to contribute to certain types of tax-advantaged accounts.

Pre-tax Dollars: Income earned by an individual before taxes have been taken out.

Post-tax Dollars: Income remaining after all applicable taxes have been deducted.

CSC® Exams Practice Questions

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Welcome to the Knowledge Checkpoint! You'll find 10 carefully curated CSC exam practice questions designed to reinforce the key concepts covered. These questions will help you gauge your grasp of the material, identify areas that need further review, and ensure you're on the right track towards mastering the content for the Canadian Securities certification exams. Take your time, think critically, and use these quizzes as a tool to enhance your learning journey. 📘✨

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## What is the main purpose of tax deferral plans according to the federal government? - [ ] To increase annual tax revenue - [ ] To penalize early withdrawals - [ ] To encourage spending - [x] To encourage Canadians to save for retirement > **Explanation:** The federal government offers tax deferral plans primarily to encourage Canadians to save for retirement by allowing them to delay paying taxes on income until retirement when their income and marginal tax rates are usually lower. ## When are taxes typically paid on income held in a tax deferral plan? - [ ] Immediately upon earning - [ ] At the end of each fiscal year - [x] At retirement - [ ] Annually on the plan's anniversary date > **Explanation:** Taxes on income within tax deferral plans are usually deferred until retirement, when the person’s income and marginal tax rates are likely lower. ## Which characteristic is unique to a tax-free plan compared to a tax deferral plan? - [ ] Taxes are paid upon contribution - [ ] Penalties for early withdrawal - [x] Income is fully exempt from tax - [ ] Funds cannot be withdrawn prematurely > **Explanation:** A tax-free plan allows the income from property to be fully exempted from tax and provides flexibility to withdraw funds at any time without penalty. ## What is a common penalty involved with tax deferral plans? - [x] Penalty for withdrawing funds before a certain date - [ ] Penalty for contributing too much in a single year - [ ] Penalty for not using the funds at all - [ ] No penalties involved > **Explanation:** Tax deferral plans often impose penalties if funds are withdrawn before a certain date, discouraging early withdrawals. ## At what point are tax rates typically lower for income subjected to tax deferral plans? - [ ] During high-earning years - [x] At retirement - [ ] During years of unemployment - [ ] During the plan's early years > **Explanation:** Tax rates are usually lower at retirement when an individual's income is generally lower compared to their high-earning years. ## Why might a taxpayer choose a tax-free plan over a tax deferral plan? - [ ] To commute contributions into cash annually - [ ] To avoid all types of government scrutiny - [x] To withdraw funds anytime without penalty - [ ] To reduce total contributions > **Explanation:** A taxpayer might choose a tax-free plan because it allows for the withdrawal of funds at any time for any purpose without penalty. ## What is a common purpose for which tax deferral plans are designed? - [ ] Immediate consumption - [ ] Home purchases - [x] Retirement savings - [ ] Vacation funding > **Explanation:** Tax deferral plans are primarily designed to encourage saving for retirement, allowing people to defer taxes to a time when their income and tax rates are usually lower. ## Which of the following can be a feature of both tax deferral and tax-free plans? - [ ] Immediate penalty for deposits - [ ] Requirement to use funds for medical expenses - [ ] Yearly income reporting for tax purposes - [x] Designed to promote long-term savings > **Explanation:** Both tax deferral and tax-free plans are designed to promote long-term savings, though the mechanisms and tax treatments differ. ## What happens to income generated within a tax-free plan? - [ ] It is taxed at a reduced rate immediately - [ ] It is reported annually without tax implications - [x] It is fully exempt from tax - [ ] It incurs a delayed tax due annually > **Explanation:** Income generated within a tax-free plan is completely exempt from tax, providing a significant tax advantage compared to other types of accounts. ## What type of flexibility does a tax-free plan offer that a tax deferral plan usually does not? - [ ] Flexible terms of contribution types - [x] Withdrawals anytime without penalty - [ ] Higher annual contribution limit - [ ] Directly paying for insured benefits > **Explanation:** A tax-free plan offers the flexibility of withdrawing funds at any time without penalties, unlike tax deferral plans which typically penalize early withdrawals.

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In this section

  • 24.4.1 Registered Pension Plans
    Comprehensive overview of Registered Pension Plans (RPPs) in Canada, detailing various components like Pension Adjustments, types of plans including Money Purchase Plans and Defined Benefit Plans, and critical tax implications.
  • 24.4.2 Registered Retirement Savings Plans
    Learn about Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) including the types, contributions, withdrawals, and tax implications.
  • 24.4.3 Registered Retirement Income Funds
    Learn about Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF), including their features, rules for withdrawals, tax implications, and investment options.
  • 24.4.4 Deferred Annuities
    Learn all about deferred annuities, their features, tax implications, and the benefits they provide to investors. Gain comprehensive insights into how these financial products fit into your broader investment strategy.
  • 24.4.5 Tax-free Savings Accounts
    Learn about Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), including basic rules, taxation, qualified investments, contributions, and withdrawals. Discover how they can fit into your financial planning.
  • 24.4.6 Registered Education Savings Plans
    A detailed guide on Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) explaining their features, types, tax implications, contribution limits, and additional benefits like the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG).
  • 24.4.7 Pooled Registered Pension Plans
    An in-depth guide on Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs) covering eligibility, benefits, administration, and comparisons with other registered investments like RRSPs.
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