My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humour/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Registered Disability Savings Plan – A Government-Assisted Savings Plan for Family Members that Qualify for the Disability Tax Credit

Last week, Katy Basi wrote about using Henson Trusts to estate plan for disabled beneficiaries.

Today, Howard Kazdan, a tax expert with BDO Canada LLP, discusses what a Registered Disability Savings Plan is and where it may be a useful tax planning vehicle for the parents of a disabled child.

I thank Howard and Katy for their excellent posts.

The Registered Disability Savings Plan – A Government-Assisted Savings Plan for Family Members that Qualify for the Disability Tax Credit

By Howard Kazdan

A Registered Disability Savings Plan (“RDSP”) is a savings plan that is intended to help parents and others save for the long term financial security of a person who is eligible for the disability tax credit (“DTC”). A person is eligible for the DTC only if a medical practitioner certifies on Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate, that this person has a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions. This form must also be approved by the CRA.

Where you have a family member living with a physical or mental disability, consideration should be given to opening a Registered Disability Savings Plan.

What is an RDSP?

RDSPs are tax deferred savings plans which can provide long-term financial benefits for a disabled individual resident in Canada. Qualifying individuals may receive grants and bonds that the Government of Canada contributes to the RDSP.

How does the RDSP work?

RDSPs can be opened by either a beneficiary who has reached the age of majority and is contractually competent to open an RDSP for themselves or, before 2019, by their parents or other legal representative.

There is no limit to how much can be contributed to an RDSP in any particular year, however, the lifetime maximum contribution limit is $200,000. Contributions can be made until the end of the year in which the disabled person turns 59.

It is important to note that there is no tax deduction for contributing to an RDSP. These plans are somewhat similar to a Registered Education Savings Plan (if you have opened such an account for your child’s education). On the flip side, when the original contributions are withdrawn, the disabled individual will not be taxed on those contributions. However, income earned and government grants (discussed below) and bonds received will be taxed when they are paid out of the RDSP. If the plan is established for a long period of time, and the investments earn a good rate of return, then this may provide a long deferral from paying tax.

Subject to certain contribution and age limits, RRSP/RRIF proceeds can be transferred to an RDSP through a will if the disabled individual is financially dependent upon the deceased. This allows parents or grandparents of a disabled individual, to tax and estate plan for a future contribution to an RDSP and may provide you with comfort if it is not otherwise possible to maximize the contributions before this point.

Government Grants

The Government of Canada pays a grant to the RDSP, until the end of the year in which the beneficiary turns 49, that is dependent on the beneficiary’s family income and the amount contributed. The maximum grant is $3,500 each year, to a lifetime maximum of $70,000. The contribution rules allow for a 10-year carryforward of entitlements, for those who qualify but cannot contribute every year.

Beneficiary's family income
$90,563 or less

on the first $500
$3 for every $1 contributed
on the next $1,000
$2 for every $1 contributed
more than $90,563 or no income information at available at CRA
on the first $1,000
$1 for every $1 contributed
**The beneficiary family income thresholds are indexed each year to inflation. The income thresholds shown are for 2016.

For minors, family net income is that of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s). From the year the beneficiary turns 18, family net income is the combined net income of the beneficiary and their spouse.

The Government of Canada may also pay up to $1,000/year, to a maximum of $20,000, in a Canada disability savings bond to low-income Canadians until the beneficiary turns 49. No contributions are required once the RDSP is opened.


Since RDSPs are intended to be a long-term savings vehicle, if money is withdrawn, all or part of the government grants and bonds that have been in the RDSP for less than 10 years may have to be repaid. The beneficiary must repay $3 for every $1 that is taken out, up to the total amount of grants and bonds paid into the RDSP in the last 10 years. This can be very punitive if funds are required urgently.

The minimum regular scheduled payments that must begin when the beneficiary turns 60 are determined by a complicated formula.

If an RDSP terminates because the beneficiary no longer qualifies for the DTC or dies, then:
  • grants and bonds that have been in the plan for less than 10 years must be repaid, and
  • amounts paid to the beneficiary or his/her estate related to investment income, grants and bonds will be taxable.
If you are disabled, or have a disabled child, you should consider opening an RDSP if you have not already done so, to provide additional government-assisted long-term financial security.

Before opening the plan, confirm with the Canada Revenue Agency that the DTC eligibility status of the plan holder is up-to date so the DTC can be claimed and the benefits of an RDSP can be enjoyed. This should be monitored in the future so the benefits are not lost.

RDSPs can be a useful tax planning tool for the parents of a disabled child. However, as noted above, there are many rules for which you need to familiarize yourself with.

Howard Kazdan is a Senior Tax Manager with BDO Canada LLP. He can be reached at 905-946-5459 or by email at

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

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