Retired Money: Still a place for Spousal RRSPs

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My latest MoneySense Retired Money blog has just been published, which you can find by clicking on this highlighted link: Tax Strategies using spousal RRSPs.

This is the second in a series: the first one focused on pension splitting and can be found here: Pension splitting is now ten years old. The Financial Post also ran a related piece called Spousal RRSPs are an often overlooked retirement savings tool.

As these pieces note, income splitting usually works best for families when two spouses are in different tax brackets. Particularly if one spouse is a big earner and the second isn’t making peony at all.

As CIBC Wealth’s Jamie Golombek observed in this piece in the FP — Tax Season is Upon Us — the Family Tax Cut is no more as of 2016: that was a version of income splitting that let families with children under 18 transfer up to $50,000 of income to his or her lower-income spouse or partner. But “seniors need not worry,” Golombek added: seniors can still split eligible pension income with spouses or common-law partners.

And spousal RRSPs still present non-seniors with another valid income-splitting alternative, again assuming that a couple occupy disparate tax brackets.  As the MoneySense piece phrases it, all those years the high-earning spouse is saving for retirement, the ideal solution would be to get a tax deduction for RRSP contributions but when it comes time to receive the income, to receive it in the hands of the lower-income spouse.

And that’s exactly what a spousal RRSP does. The contributor can deduct the amount of the spousal RRSP deposit from his/her (higher) earned income, while the recipient (the husband in our example) owns the investments. The aim is to equalize retirement income of both spouses, and to have the RRSP funds withdrawn by the recipient spouse at his or her lower tax rate.

Unlike pension splitting, you’re not restricted to splitting just 50% of the income: you can have 100% of it taxed in the lower-earning spouse if so desired. This income splitting also helps the couple each qualify for the $2,000 pension credit.

There are plenty of nuances to this, such as splitting CPP or QPP income after age 60. But as Chris Cottier, an investment advisor with Richardson GMP Limited, says, the spousal RRSP is generally a “no-lose” proposition.

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