Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs)


Canadians need to save for many different purposes over their lifetimes. Reducing taxes on savings can help.

That’s why the Government has introduced a new Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). It’s the single most important personal savings vehicle since the introduction of the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

The TFSA will allow Canadians to set money aside in eligible investment vehicles and watch those savings grow tax-free throughout their lifetimes. TFSA savings can be used to purchase a new car, renovate a house, start a small business or take a family vacation.

Canadians from all income levels and all walks of life can benefit.

How the TFSA Works

  • Starting in 2009, Canadians aged 18 and older can save up to $5,000 every year in a TFSA.
  • Contributions to a TFSA will not be deductible for income tax purposes but investment income, including capital gains, earned in a TFSA will not be taxed, even when withdrawn.
  • Unused TFSA contribution room can be carried forward to future years.
  • You can withdraw funds from the TFSA at any time for any purpose.
  • The amount withdrawn can be put back in the TFSA at a later date without reducing your contribution room.
  • Neither income earned in a TFSA nor withdrawals will affect your eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits.
  • Contributions to a spouse’s TFSA will be allowed and TFSA assets can be transferred to a spouse upon death.

How Is a TFSA Different From a Registered Retirement Savings Plan?

An RRSP is primarily intended for retirement. The TFSA is like an RRSP for everything else in your life .

Both plans offer tax advantages, but they have key differences:

  • Contributions to an RRSP are deductible and reduce your income for tax purposes. In contrast, your TFSA savings will not be deductible.
  • Withdrawals from an RRSP are added to your income and taxed at current rates. Your TFSA withdrawals and growth within your account will not—they will be tax-free.

An Effective Vehicle for Your Lifetime Savings Needs

  • Robert withdraws $20,000 tax-free from his TFSA to renovate his home. Robert will be able to re-contribute the $20,000 to his TFSA in the future without affecting his other available contribution room. Had he used his RRSP savings, he would have needed to withdraw up to $37,000 to pay taxes and cover the cost of the renovation, and this contribution room would have been lost.
  • Benefits of Saving in a TFSA

    Because capital gains and other investment income earned in a TFSA will not be taxed, a person contributing $200 a month to a TFSA for 20 years will enjoy additional savings of $11,045 compared to saving in an unregistered account.

    A Flexible Account for a Lifetime of Savings

    Not everyone is able to save each and every year.

    Those who cannot contribute $5,000 in a given year will be able to carry forward their unused contribution room to future years.

    In addition, Canadians may want to use their savings—to buy a new car or a cottage, or start a small business—and the full amount of withdrawals can be put back into the TFSA in the future.

    Couples often save and plan together, so Canadians can contribute to their spouse’s or common-law partner’s TFSA, depending on the spouse’s or partner’s available room.

    Benefits for Seniors

    The TFSA will also provide seniors with a tax-free savings vehicle to meet ongoing savings needs, something they have only limited access to once they reach age 71 and are required to begin drawing down their registered retirement savings.

    Seniors are expected to receive one-half of the total benefits provided by the TFSA.

    No Impact on Income-Tested Benefits

    Neither income earned in a TFSA nor withdrawals will affect your eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits, such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. This will improve incentives for people with low and modest incomes to save.

    It is estimated that, in the first five years, over 75 per cent of the benefits of TFSA savings will go to individuals in the two lowest income tax brackets.