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A financial tool for those with disabilities, Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP) enable tax-free savings over the long term. Designed to facilitate parents and caretakers to save for the long-term care of a disabled individual. Available across Canada and through a range of financial institutions, these savings arrangements are designed to reduce equity divisions. Subject to anti-avoidance rules, these plans are highly regulated; though, when used correctly, can provide the chance to save necessary funds. As with any other savings plan, it is important to understand the options available and how they fit with your overall financial picture.  

What Is The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)?

The Registered Disability Savings Plan is a long-term savings solution available to those who are eligible to receive the disability tax credit. The program has specific regulations as to what constitutes a disability, though it essentially boils down to the issue being persistent and severe enough to impede daily life. RDSPs are available to individuals with both physical and mental disabilities and the program is accessible across the country. 

Though the structure of an RDSP is designed to help parents and caregivers save, the beneficiary and the primary can be the same person. That is if the beneficiary has reached the age of majority in their province and is competent enough to understand the obligations of opening an RDSP for themself. 

In instances where there is legal guardianship and trusteeship over the beneficiary, the guardian controls the contributions. Disabled individuals who manage their financial affairs can manage, contribute, and withdraw from the RDSP. 

Are RDSP Contributions Taxable? 

Contributions to the RDSP are not tax-deductible, meaning they cannot be used to lower your income tax. Withdrawals from your RDSP are not taxed or included as income when paid out to the beneficiary. 

However, other income associated with qualifying for the DTC (disability tax credit) is taxable, including the Canada disability savings grant or the savings bond. Funds earned through investments in the plan, in addition to rollover proceeds, do count as taxable income. 

Thinking about hiring a disability tax credit consultant?

How Much Can You Contribute To An RDSP?

Understanding contribution regulations is an important part of reducing the annual tax burden and optimizing long-term savings. Since an RDSP is a registered program, it has a large series of regulations. These apply not only to individuals seeking access to them but to how the account gets used. 

No Yearly Limit

With most registered savings plans, there is a yearly limit to contributions. However, Registered Disability Savings Plans are a noteworthy exception. There is no annual limit, though the cap on an RDSP is $200,000 for a lifetime. This applies to contributions, not to interest earned on the savings in the account. As a result, there is significant value in opening one sooner rather than later. 

For example, consider two RDSPs, both maturing in 2030. The plan that first reaches $200,000 has more time to accrue interest; and, therefore, is worth more (assuming neither party withdrew from the plan). 

Contribute Until Age 49

If you have an RDSP, you may be eligible for the CDSG (Canada Disability Savings Grant). This program is a matching grant where the government matches contributions up to 300%. However, the RDSP stops accepting these contributions at the end of the year when the beneficiary turns 49. Once this age is reached, the grant acts as ongoing income. Withdrawals from the RDSP do not get classified as taxable income, even after this point. 

Anyone is eligible to contribute to a plan, though if they are not the holder of the plan, they must have a consent form in writing. After the beneficiary ages out of the program, no more contributions are allowed, whether from the plan holder or anyone else. 

When Can You Withdraw From A Registered Disability Savings Plan? 

To withdraw money, the plan holder must be involved. The beneficiary cannot make withdrawals in situations of Trusteeship, though they can if they are also the plan holder. To access funds from the plan, the recipient can opt for annual payouts as one option. Called Lifetime Disability Assistance Payments, the proceeds withdrawn are fully liquid and can be used for any purpose. 

Another approach to withdrawing from an RDSP is through or sporadic lump-sum payouts. Called Disability Assistance Payments, the schedule for these payments is variable and can be determined by the account holder (provided the timeline follows regulations). Income tax is not charged on any original contributed amount, though it does apply to earnings from the plan. 

Rules And Regulations

The key regulation to keep in mind is that to maximize the utility of an RDSP, you should expect to avoid withdrawals for the first ten years. Beneficiaries who do not wait for this period must repay any grants and bonds earned through the savings plan. This timeline takes retroactive effect when the funds are first withdrawn as income. If the beneficiary takes an income from the plan in 2035, any grants or bonds issued since 2025 must be repaid. Considering this, it is best to open an RDSP as early as possible, offering more opportunities to gather funds that the beneficiary can retain.  

Who Can Open A  Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) 

Planning is key when opening any type of savings account; though, as with other registered savings arrangements, opening an RDSP takes some extra preparation. 

Opening The Account

To open an RDSP, the disabled individual must be over the age of 18 and has the legal capacity to manage their finances. Alternatively, the account can be opened by a legal guardian of a child with a disability who is still underage. If the disabled party has reached the age of majority and lacks the legal capacity to manage their finances, then the legal representative can open the account. 

Information On Beneficiaries 

Registered Disability Savings Plans require the individual to qualify for the disability tax credit. This requires an application and the certification of a medical practitioner that the disability is prolonged, severe, and impairs function. Additionally, the beneficiary must have a Social Insurance Number and be a resident of Canada. Residency requirements apply to the time of opening and the time of contribution. 

Finally, it’s important to note that there can only be one beneficiary per RDSP, though the beneficiary can be changed by the account holder. Any changes require the subsequent beneficiary to meet the same requirements as the first. 

Benefits Of A Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)

There are several benefits to having a Registered Disability Savings Plan, a government-regulated financial tool meant to reduce economic inequality often experienced by disabled individuals. Among the advantages of having an RDSP in your portfolio are: 

  • Tax deferral on investment income: By deferring taxes on investment earnings while the money is in an RDSP, you can foster quicker growth. When you withdraw the money, the investment income becomes taxable, but until then it contributes to the value of the RDSP without a tax burden. 
  • Flexible funds: The account holder can withdraw funds for the beneficiary at any point, provided the proceeds are useful to the beneficiary. Flexibility applies to both withdrawing and contributing. For the latter, it takes only a written consent letter to allow contributions from outside sources. 
  • Contributions from the government: The Government of Canada matches contributions within set limits. This addition is available each year, with different programs available. It’s important to remember that as soon as the beneficiary withdraws an income, the benefits become repayable. 

Are you receiving Canada RIT Deposits in your bank account?

Benefits You Can Access As An RDSP Beneficiary 

As a beneficiary of an RDSP, there is more than just the advantage of income tax savings, it lends access to specific government programs. While you can receive the Disability Tax Credit with a disability, an RDSP works to save over the long term. The earlier you open the account, the more benefits you can accrue from the account, even though you cannot receive government grants or bonds for ten years before taking an income. Accessible benefits include the: 

  • Canada Disability Savings Grant: Through this grant, you get contribution matching of up to 300%. The yearly limit of $3,500 means that you only have to contribute $1,166.67 per year to get to a total of $4,766.67. There is an annual limit of $70,000.
  • Canada Disability Savings Bond: Offering a benefit of $1,000 annually, this benefit is subject to a family income threshold (though it is subject to a family income threshold). Lower-income households qualify for this bond. It has a lifetime cap of $20,000.

Both of these benefits are available only if you have an open RDSP, at which point you can apply for the program. The beneficiary must be 49 or younger; and, if the beneficiary is 49 exactly, they must apply prior to the end of the calendar year. Canadian residency, a social insurance number, and disability tax credit eligibility are also necessary. 

Registered Disability Savings Plan FAQs

Will an RDSP affect my other tax credits like CCB payments?

No, receiving an RDSP payment does not impact your eligibility for other benefits. This includes the GST/HST credit and the CCB (Canada Child Benefit). It will, however, influence support payments on a provincial scale. For example, AISH, an Alberta-based program, has an income and asset threshold. 

What type of investment can you hold in your RDSP?

The money held in an RDSP can be invested in a range of different ways. Among the options are mutual funds and savings deposits. Investment choices depend on the level of risk the account holder is comfortable with. You can opt for a portfolio with a diverse set of investments, an option with a higher risk, or Guaranteed Investment Certificates, with security in the guarantee. 

How long can you contribute to your RDSP?

An RDSP accepts contributions until the calendar end of the year during which the beneficiary turns 59. Any government matching, bonds, or grants, are only available until the beneficiary reaches the age of 49. 

Is an RDSP contribution tax-deductible?

No, contributions made to an RDSP are not tax-deductible. However, when the same contributions are paid to the beneficiary, they are not taxable income. Consider it like paying the tax burden upfront, instead of the beneficiary paying it further down the line.

Final Notes

As a component of an overall financial plan for disabled individuals, Registered Disability Savings Plans are a powerful tool. Consider your options and select an approach that best suits the needs of both the contributor and the beneficiary. The plans are best when used in conjunction with a solid budget and a long-term financial strategy. Provided the account holder plans ahead and considers the eligibility impact on other benefits, it can set up individuals with qualifying disabilities for financial success long into the future. 

Corrina Murdoch avatar on Loans Canada
Corrina Murdoch

Corrina Murdoch has been a dedicated freelance writer and editor for several years. With an academic background in the sciences and a penchant for mathematics, she seeks to provide readers with accurate, reliable information on important topics. Working as a print journalist for several years, Corrina expanded her reach into the digital sphere to help more people gain insight into the realm of finances. When she's not writing, you can find Corrina swimming and spending time with family.

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