Saskatchewan Pension Plan Q+AsJanuary 11, 2018
We have previously blogged about Why you should join SPP and 10 things you need to know about SPP. But joining a pension plan is a serious decision so before you make a commitment, you need answers to as many questions as possible.
Therefore this week we present a series of SPP FAQs (frequently asked questions) that will clarify a number of nuances about the program you may not yet be aware of.
Q: What is the difference between SPP and an RRSP?
A: SPP follows the same income tax rules as an RRSP except that SPP is locked in. Under tax rules contributions to SPP can be used as repayments to the Home Buyers Plan (HBP) and the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). However withdrawals are not permitted for this purpose.
Q: How much money can I contribute each year?
A: SPP regulations limit contributions to $6,000/year. Even though the SPP limit is $6,000, there is the potential to have tax receipts totaling greater than $12,000 for a tax year. For example, if you make two $6,000 contributions in the first 60 days of the year, one for 2017 and one for 2018, you will receive tax receipts totaling $12,000 to report on your 2017 tax return.
Q: How do I allow my tax program to accept more than $6,000 in SPP contributions?
A: All tax receipts received for the remainder of 2017 and first 60 days of 2018 must be entered for the 2017 tax year. Some tax programs will not allow more than $6,000 of Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) contributions to be claimed even though members are eligible to claim the full amount made.
Therefore, it is important to always review your income tax return before filing, specifically line 208 of the T1 General, to ensure the full deduction expected is being made. If the full deduction required is not shown on line 208 you will need to make sure that you record your SPP contribution tax receipts the same way you would record a regular RRSP contribution tax receipt. In most programs this means you need to designate your SPP contribution as an RRSP; in other words, do not indicate you have made an SPP contribution.
Q: How much can I transfer in from another registered plan?
A: You can transfer up to $10,000 in cash per calendar year into your SPP account from existing RRSPs, RRIFs and unlocked RPPs. Funds transferred to SPP are subject to all SPP rules including the locking in provision. This means your transferred funds become part of your SPP account and can only be accessed when you choose a retirement option. Since these are direct transfers between plans, there are no tax implications.
Q: How can I convert my SPP savings into retirement income?
A: If having a stable income for the rest of your life is important to you then an annuity from SPP may be an appropriate choice. If maintaining control of investment decisions is important, then a Prescribed Registered Retirement Income Fund (PRRIF) or a Locked-in Retirement Account with another financial institution could be an appropriate alternative for you.
You also have the option to choose a combination of the annuity and PRRIF option. At retirement time, if you have a pension benefit of $23.29 or less per month, you may choose to take your money out in cash less a 10% withholding tax (sent to Canada Revenue Agency) or transfer your account into an RRSP.
Q: Who will invest my money?
A: SPP has independent, professional money managers. The funds are invested in a diversified portfolio of high quality investments to ensure a competitive rate of return. Your investments are monitored regularly. Leith Wheeler Investment Counsel Inc. and Greystone Managed Investments Inc. are the Plan investment managers.
Further FAQs can be found here. Additional information is available from the SPP website or by contacting SPP at firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-306-463-5410 (call collect) or 1-800-667-7153 (out of province, in Canada).
Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.
|Written by Sheryl Smolkin|
|Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.|
Pension-income splitting rules can reduce total tax billApril 13, 2017
By Sheryl Smolkin
I retired from my corporate job with a defined benefit pension before I turned 55 and I opted to begin receiving my CPP at age 60. And by starting my own business as a workplace journalist I also created another significant income stream.
In contrast, when my husband retired at age 65 he did not have a pension and he elected to defer receipt of CPP and OAS for a year. He also decided not to convert his RRSP into a RRIF until he is required to do so at age 71. Therefore, other than withdrawing funds from our unregistered investment account, he had no source of income. As a result, when it came to filing subsequent income tax returns, the disparity in our income made us ideal candidates to benefit from pension-income splitting which has been available since 2007.
The way it works is that if you are receiving income that qualifies for the pension income tax credit you’ll be able to allocate up to half of that income to your spouse or common-law partner (and vice versa) each year. You don’t actually have to write a cheque because pension income-splitting is merely a paper transaction done via your tax return.
The type of pension income that qualifies for the pension income tax credit of up to $2.000/year and that is eligible for pension splitting differs depending on whether you were 65 or older in the year.
- If you were under 65 as of December 31, 2016, “qualifying pension income” includes life annuity payments out of a defined benefit or defined contribution pension plan and certain payments received as a result of the death of your spouse or common-law partner.
- If you were 65 or older in 2016, other defined payments such as lifetime annuity payments out of your RRSP, DPSP or RRIF also qualify for the pension credit. Qualifying pension income doesn’t include CPP, OAS or GIS payments.
- It is worthwhile noting that pension payments from SPP qualify for the pension income tax credit.
The extent to which pension income-splitting will be beneficial will depend on the marginal tax bracket of you and your spouse or common-law partner, as well as the amount of qualifying income that can be split. In many cases, the optimal allocation will be less than the allowable 50% maximum.
If you opt to pension split, a special election form (Form T1032) must be signed by the parties affected and filed with the CRA. If you file your return electronically, you should keep the election form on file in case the CRA asks for it. Another result of pension splitting is that the income tax withheld from your pension income will be reported on your spouse or common-law partner’s return, proportional to the amount of income being split.
Pension income splitting may also reduce the Old Age Security claw back while transferring income to your spouse who is taxed at a lower tax rate. In addition, your spouse can access the pension income credit of up to $2,000 for federal tax purposes and $1,000 for BC tax purposes, which would otherwise be unavailable without pension income.
The pension income splitting rules do not make spousal RRSPs obsolete, since spousal plans still have income splitting benefits for the years before you turn 65 or if you have not yet converted your RRSP to a RRIF or annuity. In addition, taking advantage of spousal RRSPs can increase your potential for withdrawals under the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan.
In 2014 and 2015 the Family Tax Cut credit provided a version of income splitting that allowed an individual to notionally transfer up to $50,000 of income to his or her lower-income spouse or partner, provided they have a child who was under 18 at the end of the year. The credit was capped at $2,000 annually. However, that form of income-splitting was abolished by the new Liberal government for 2016.
Other permitted forms of income splitting with family members are described here.
Why you should join SPPJanuary 19, 2017
By Sheryl Smolkin
It’s registered retirement savings plan season again and media ads from financial institutions encouraging you to open a plan and invest in their products are running 24/7. But you are really not sure whether you should opt to save your hard-earned money in the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, an RRSP or a tax-free savings plan.
There is not a single answer that will meet the needs of every individual or their family. You may opt to split your savings among the three types of plans in order to meet different savings objectives. But the fact is that SPP is the ONLY one of these three types of registered plans that has a single purpose:
“To help you save money exclusively for retirement.“
You can withdraw money from your RRSP and pay the taxes in your year of withdrawal, but when you do take money out, that contribution room is totally lost to you. You can also take money out of your TFSA and your contribution room is restored the following year. However, every time you withdraw money you interrupt the tax-free growth of your contributions plus investment earnings.
SPP is a locked-in pension plan which means your account must stay with the Plan until you are at least 55 years old. In the event of your death, the money in your account will be paid to your beneficiary. Within six months of joining SPP, you can withdraw your contributions if you decide that you do not wish to participate in the Plan. After six months, the funds are locked in.
SPP follows the same income tax rules as an RRSP except that SPP is locked in. Under tax rules contributions to SPP can be used as repayments to the Home Buyers Plan (HBP) and the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). However SPP withdrawals are not permitted for this purpose. A taxpayer can designate all or part of the contribution as a repayment on Schedule 7 and file it with their tax return. SPP does not track repayments to the HBP.
The plan is designed to be very flexible and to accommodate your individual financial circumstances. Even contributing $10 per month will build your SPP account and provide you with additional pension at retirement. The maximum contribution is $2,500 per year subject to available RRSP room and there is no minimum contribution.
Transfers into SPP from RRSPs and unlocked RPPs of up to $10,000 a year are also allowed and spousal contributions are permitted. Contributions you make to a spouse or common-law partner’s account reduce your RRSP deduction limit. The total amount you can deduct for a given tax year cannot be more than your RRSP deduction limit. Contribution and PAC forms have a section to designate contributions for spousal deduction.
Between the ages of 55 and 71 when you opt to retire, one of the options available is to transfer to the amount in your SPP account to either a Prescribed Registered Retirement Income Fund (PRRIF) or a Locked-in Retirement account (LIRA) with another financial institution.
You can also select an annuity option. The amount of your monthly payment will depend on which annuity option you choose, your age at retirement, your account balance, and the interest and annuity rates in effect when you retire. SPP can provide a personal pension estimate for you if you call the toll-free line at 1-800-667-7153.
It’s been six years since I started working with SPP and wrote my first article about the plan. I joined SPP and have transferred $10,000 in every year since. According to my June 2016 statement I had $80,140.74 in my account. By the time I am 71, I hope to have a total of about $150,000 in the plan. I like the low fees (1% a year or less) and that my money is professionally managed.
In five years I intend to purchase a joint and survivor annuity to provide a guaranteed monthly payment for my husband’s and my lifetime. This stream of income will provide further income security as we age in addition to our other pension income.
We also have other registered and unregistered savings which we can use for a variety of purposes including funding an estate for our children. But I’m pleased that that over a 30 year period the average SPP balanced fund return has been 8.10% and as of the end of November 2016, balanced fund YTD returns were 5.29%.
If you want to fund a pension that will be there when you need it most, check out SPP or top up your SPP savings. Then allocate the balance of your savings for next year to other available accounts.
You will be glad you did. After all, no one wants to put all their eggs in one basket!
Aug 24: Best from the blogosphereAugust 24, 2015
By Sheryl Smolkin
After several weeks of “theme” issues of Best from the Blogosphere, for the next several weeks we will get back to basics and check out what our perennial favourites have been writing about lately.
On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen discusses 3 financial mistakes to avoid. They are buying too much home; raiding your RRSP; and, putting your child’s needs ahead of your retirement.
Retire Happy’s Sarah Milton describes Using the Lifelong Learning Plan. The LLP is a program that allows Canadian residents to borrow up to $20,000 from their RRSPs in order to cover the costs of a full-time further education program for themselves, their common-law partner or spouse. If the Harper government is re-elected, they have promised to raise this amount to $35,000.
The Frugal Trader gives a Financial Freedom Update on Million Dollar Journey. He says in the year since he has reached the million dollar net worth milestone it feels great but nothing has really changed. His family has recently decided to become a single income family and with tight fiscal management they are able to live on one government salary.
Blonde on a Budget Cait Flanders moved from Vancouver to Victoria recently and she has established a final de-cluttering challenge for herself. Last year she purged 43% of her belongings in one month to embrace a minimalist lifestyle. She has given herself 20 days to see how much more stuff she can get rid of when she unpacks her moving boxes.
Finally, Michael James on money says Your Retirement Spending Plan is Critical. While working, if you don’t like the plan your financial advisor has set up for you, you can find a new advisor and make up for past mistakes. But if your advisor puts you on a bad retirement spending plan, by the time you figure out there is a problem, there’s little you can do. other than cut spending.
Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.
How much of your savings can you tax shelter?February 12, 2015
By Sheryl Smolkin
Saving for retirement or any other important goal like a home purchase or your child’s education is not easy. But if you are able to deduct your annual contributions from taxable income and/or accumulate investment earnings tax-free, the balance in your accounts will accumulate much faster.
Most Canadians have heard about and save in at least one of the following registered accounts: Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), pension plans, Tax Free Savings Account (TFSAs) or Registered Educational Savings Plans. But many may not be aware of exactly how much money they can contribute to these programs annually or carry forward to future years.
In 2014 you can contribute 18% of your income to a defined contribution (DC) pension plan to a maximum of $24,930. RRSP contributions are based on your previous year’s earnings (2013 earnings for 2014 contributions). As result of the one year lag, maximum RRSP contributions for 2014 are $24,270.
In order to contribute up to $2,500/year to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP), you must have RRSP contribution room. Maximum permissible defined benefit (DB) pension plan contributions are calculated per year of service, and reduce your DC plan or RRSP contribution room.
RRSP and pension plan contributions are tax deductible and the contributions accumulate tax deferred. However, you do not have to take a deduction for RRSP contributions in the year you contribute. You can wait until a later year when your earnings are higher and if you do, the tax savings will be greater.
Unused RRSP contribution room can also be carried forward to use in any future year. And you can still catch up even if you are retired. For example, if you have unused RRSP contribution room from past years and funds are available, contributing to your own or your spouse’s RRSP is allowed up until the end of the year the plan holder turns age 71. However, you cannot contribute to an RRSP for a person (yourself or your spouse) who already turned age 71 in the previous year.
Unlike DB or some DC pension plans (i.e. SPP), funds in your RRSP are not locked in. That means you can take money out at any time subject to paying taxes on the money in the year of withdrawal. But it is important to remember that once you withdraw money from your RRSP the contribution room will not be restored and you lose the benefit of future compounding on the amount of the withdrawal.
If tax-free withdrawals are made under the RRSP Home Buyers’ Plan or Lifelong Learning Plan, you will eventually be liable for taxes on the money if you do not pay back the principal over a prescribed period.
Tax-Free Savings Account
The TFSA is a flexible, registered savings account that first became available to Canadians in 2009. From 2009 to 2012 maximum annual contributions were $5,000/year. Based on indexation due to inflation, the annual contribution maximum was increased to $5,500 in 2013.
A TFSA can be used to enhance retirement savings or to accumulate money for other goals. Contributions are not tax-deductible but savings grow tax-free. If you make a withdrawal from your TFSA, the contribution room is restored in the year following the year you take money out. Unused contribution room is also carried forward.
Because withdrawals are tax free and contribution room is restored after a withdrawal, a TFSA can be an ideal place to stash your “emergency funds.” Another benefit of a TFSA is you can continue to make contributions indefinitely, unlike RRSP contributions which must end after age 71.
An additional attractive feature of a TFSA is that neither income earned within the plan nor withdrawals affect eligibility for federal income-tested government benefits and credits such as Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Tax Benefit.
Registered Educational Savings Plan
A Registered Educational Savings Plan (RESP) is a tax-sheltered plan that can help you save for a child’s post-secondary education. Unlike an RRSP, contributions to an RESP are not tax deductible. However, investment earnings accumulate tax-free in the plan. When money is paid out of the plan it is taxable in the hands of the student, who typically will be in a lower income bracket than the parent or other contributor.
There is no limit on annual RESP contributions but there is a lifetime maximum of $50,000 per child. However, there are annual and lifetime maximums on the Canadian Education Savings Grant (CESG) available for eligible beneficiaries under the age of 18.
The federal CESG matches 20% on the first $2,500 (maximum of $500) contributed annually to an RESP. The maximum total CESG the government will give, up to age 18, is $7,200 per beneficiary. The grant proceeds are invested along with your contributions, further enhancing the benefits of tax-deferred and compound investment growth within your plan.
A $500 Canada Learning Bond (CLB) is also provided for children of families who are entitled to the National Child Benefit Supplement (net family income of $44,701 in 2015) and who are born after December 31, 2003. These children also qualify for CLB instalments of $100 per year until age 15, as long as they continue to receive the National Child Benefit Supplement. The total maximum CLB payable per child is $2,000.
CLBs are allocated to a specific child; unlike CESGs, they cannot be shared with other beneficiaries. There is no requirement to make contributions in order to qualify for the CLB.
Adding it all up
Over the years RRSP/pension savings limits have crept up and with the introduction of TFSAs in 2009, Canadians have another tax-effective way to save. RESPs are particularly attractive vehicles for educational savings as the federal government offers CESG grants and the Canada Learning Bond as further incentives for saving.
Understanding annual savings limits for all of these registered plans will help you to budget and save the maximum affordable amount every year in the most tax-effective way. Any unused savings room that can be carried forward will come in handy as your income increases or if you ever need to tax shelter a lump sum such as the proceeds of a severance package or capital gains on the sale of a property other than your principal residence.
How to save for retirement (Part 2)July 31, 2014
By Sheryl Smolkin
See Part 1 .
Every family has multiple financial priorities. If you have small children and a big mortgage it is often daunting to think about saving for anything more than a family night out at a local fast food restaurant.
But one way to manage your money is to pay yourself first by allocating specific amounts to savings and having these amounts moved into different jars (or accounts) as soon as your paycheque is deposited into your account.
In Part 2 of the series “how to save for retirement” we will focus on several of the tax-assisted or tax–deferred savings plans available to you and some tips for using them effectively.
- Government benefits: Every working Canadian must pay into the Canada Pension Plan or the Quebec Pension Plan until age 65. In addition, Old Age Security is payable to Canadians or legal residents living in Canada who lived in the country at least 10 years before age 65 and Canadians or legal residents living outside Canada who lived in the country at least 20 years before age 65. Lower income OAS recipients may also be eligible for the Guaranteed income Supplement (GIS). But changes to government benefit programs mean you can take benefits later or in some cases earlier (with a penalty). When developing a retirement savings plan you should understand how these programs work and the benefits you can expect to receive. You also need to decide when it makes the most financial sense for you to start collecting CPP and OAS.
- Saskatchewan Pension Plan: The Saskatchewan Pension Plan is a defined contribution pension plan open to all Canadians with registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room. You can contribute up to $2,500/year or transfer in up to $10,000/year from another unlocked RRSP. Low fees (one percent/year on average) and consistent returns (average of 8.13% over 28 years since inception) make SPP an excellent investment. The program is very flexible because how much you contribute and when is up to you. Funds are locked in until your selected retirement date, between ages 55 and 71.
- Registered Retirement Savings Plan: In 2014 you can contribute 18% of your previous year’s income to a maximum of $24,270 to your RRSP minus specified amounts contributed to other registered savings accounts. Unused contribution room can be carried forward. You can find your RRSP limit on line (A) of the RRSP Deduction Limit Statement, on your latest notice of assessment or notice of reassessment from the Canada Revenue Agency.
- RRSP withdrawals: One weakness of an RRSP as a retirement savings vehicle is that you can withdraw money at any time. If you do withdraw RRSP funds you will pay tax on withdrawals at your normal tax rate, the contribution room is lost and you lose the benefit of future tax-free compounding. However, the Home Buyers’ Plan and the Lifelong Learning Plan permit you to withdraw amounts from your RRSP in specific circumstances without triggering a tax bill and require you to repay the money, usually over 15 years.
- Tax deductible: Contributions to SPP, RRSPs and other registered pension plans are tax deductible. If you participate in one or more of these plans and have not already arranged to have less tax taken off at source, you may get a hefty income tax return. There are lots of ways to spend this windfall including taking a vacation or paying down debt. However, in his book The Smart Debt Coach, author Talbot Stevens says reinvesting your tax returns into an RRSP is the best way to get the full benefit of compounding in the plan.
- Deferring tax deduction: There is no minimum age for an RRSP. In order to make contributions to an RRSP account, a minor needs to have earned income the previous year and have filed an income tax return. If a thrifty young person or anyone with a low income makes RRSP contributions, deferring taking the tax deduction until they are in a higher tax bracket means they will get a bigger bank for their savings bucks. The last RRSP contribution a taxpayer can make is in the year they turn 71.
- Tax Free Savings Account: A Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) allows you to currently save $5,500 a year. Contributions are not tax deductible, but investment earnings accrue tax free in the account. If you withdraw money, you can re-contribute the amount to the account in the next or subsequent years without any penalty. You can only begin making contributions at age 18 but there is no upper age when you have to stop contributing. How do you decide if a TFSA or an RRSP is best for you? Gordon Pape says TFSAs are better for short-term savings goals and if you don’t want to undermine possible eligibility for government benefits like the GIS. But if your income will be lower in retirement he suggests saving in an RRSP.
- Automatic withdrawal: Whether you participate in a company pension plan, SPP, RRSP, TFSA or a combination of all or some of the above, set up automatic withdrawal so a specified percentage of your income is moved into these accounts every payday. David Chilton made “pay yourself first” a popular mantra in The Wealthy Barber, first published in 1989. If savings are skimmed off the top, you will learn to live on less while you get on with the business of day-to- day living. And when you do retire, you will have a significant part of the nest egg you need to live on.
- Automatic escalation: To find out how much you need to save for retirement, you need a financial plan. But in a recent column in the Globe and Mail, personal finance expert Preet Banerjee suggests that in the absence of a plan, the rule of thumb should be at least 10% or as much as you can save. In other words, you are not going to have enough if you keep saving a flat dollar amount each year. But if you select a percentage of income and ensure you increase your contributions every time you get a raise, it is more likely that you will reach your retirement savings goal.
- Consider insurance: Nobody expects to become disabled or die young, but it happens more often than you think. Regardless of how much you are saving for retirement, an unexpected loss of income can derail all of your short and long term goals. You may have some life insurance, disability insurance and maybe even critical illness insurance at work. Review your coverage with a financial advisor to determine if you need more individual coverage or if you can afford to self-fund the risk.
In Part 3 of this series we will focus on some basic investment principles that will help you grow your retirement savings.