Storing your money in a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) can be a great decision for your financial future, just like monitoring your credit scores or paying down high-interest debt. It is a great way to let your money grow and mature in a tax-free manner. However, before you open a TFSA, keep in mind that it is possible to over-contribute to one of these accounts. Read this to learn more about TFSA over-contribution in Canada.
What Is A TFSA Over-Contribution?
As mentioned, a Tax-Free Savings Account can be a fantastic option for your finances, as long as you stay within the annual and lifetime contribution limits set by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). For 2023, the contribution limits for a TFSA in Canada are:
- $6,500 annual (up from $6,000 in 2022)
- $88,000 lifetime (if you’ve never contributed to a TFSA before)
So, if you go beyond your annual or lifetime limit, it will be considered a TFSA over contribution, which can lead to certain fines from the CRA.
How Much Can You Contribute To Your TFSA?
The maximum amount of money you can contribute to a TFSA is cumulative. This means any contribution room left from the previous year is added to the next year’s maximum annual contributions.
If you’ve never contributed since the year you turned 18, as far back as 2009, you can deposit up to $88,000 in 2023.
Similarly, any balances that you withdraw from it will eventually be added to your contribution room for the next calendar year.
What Are Penalties For TFSA Over-Contributions?
The overall amount of money you can deposit into a TFSA without penalty is called your “contribution room”. Unfortunately, over-contributions are subject to a 1% penalty tax per month, solely on the contribution amount. For example,
- In September, you over-contribute to your TFSA by $1,500. Your total TFSA deposit is $8,000 ($1,500 more than the 2023 annual limit)
- If you don’t resolve the over-contribution by the end of the year, you’ll pay a 1% penalty on the over-contribution for September, October, November and December
- $1,500 × 0.01 × 4 (months) = $60 in penalties for 4 months of TFSA over contributions
Can’t Afford To Pay Your TFSA Over-Contribution Penalty?
If you’re unable to afford to pay your TFSA over-contribution penalty, you can contact the CRA to arrange a payment plan. However, if you’re unable to come to an agreement, you can also apply for a personal loan. With a personal loan, you can spread out your TFSA penalty costs over a few months to a few years.
How Do You Know If You’ve Over-Contributed To Your TFSA?
If you over-contribute to a TFSA, you’ll get a letter from the CRA telling you to withdraw the excess balance right away (if you haven’t done so already). They may also send you a “proposed TFSA return”, where they calculate the amount of tax you’re likely to owe them, based on data they collect from the financial institution that holds your TFSA.
If all those details are correct, just sign the proposed TFSA return form and enclose the amount you owe. If you consider the CRA’s assessment incorrect, you can send them a detailed explanation as to why you think so.
What Should You Do If You’ve Over-Contributed?
If you have a penalty to pay for over-contributing to your TFSA, there are a few different choices when it comes to what you want to do next. The options include simply paying the penalty or appealing to the CRA. We will first take a look at how you can go about paying your over-contribution penalty.
Pay The Penalty And Remove The Excess TFSA Contribution
You should look to remove the excess contribution as soon as you can. Not only will this save you money if you are paying the penalty, but will also show the CRA that you are working to rectify the mistake you made.
In order to pay your penalty, you need to file a special TFSA return (which is known as Form RC243) and send it to the CRA, along with your penalty payment. The major key here is to act quickly. The faster the excess amount is removed from your account, the lower the penalty and the better off you will be.
Send An Appeal
Of course, you can also try and send an appeal to the CRA and see if they are willing to give you a break and waive the penalty. This request should include all of your personal information as well as a detailed look at what went wrong, how you are fixing it and why the TFSA over-contribution took place in the first place.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pay the penalty even if you are planning on appealing to get the penalty waived. If the CRA accepts your appeal, they could reverse the penalty payment amount and send it back to you.
While there is no guarantee this will work, it could be worth a shot. Though do note, it can often take you upwards of a month or two to hear back from the CRA.
How To Send An Appeal For A TFSA Over-Contribution
If you think a proposed TFSA return is wrong and you want the CRA to assess your situation again, you can send a request letter to either of the following addresses:
|TFSA Processing Unit|
Canada Revenue Agency
Sudbury Tax Centre
Post Office Box 20000, Station A
Sudbury ON P3A 5C1
|TFSA Processing Unit|
Canada Revenue Agency
Winnipeg Tax Centre
Post Office Box 14000, Station Main
Winnipeg MB R3C 3M2
Remember to provide evidence to support your claim. The CRA will then review your request and send you a decision letter. If they don’t get a response, their assessment will be based on the data they have and will include any applicable penalties or interest.
How To Avoid TFSA Over-Contribution Penalties
If you’ve over-contributed to your TFSA, don’t panic. You may still have time to resolve the situation before the CRA penalizes you. Plus, it happens to plenty of Canadians every year. Here are some things you can do to avoid TFSA over-contribution penalties:
Track Your Contributions
You might be able to avoid penalties by simply monitoring your TFSA contribution room. Don’t just look at your bank statements, make sure to log into the CRA website to track your contributions from previous years and stay up-to-date with your TFSA limits in Canada. Be aware that your CRA My Account won’t include contributions from the current year.
For the latest overview of your account or more details about TFSA over-contributions, talk to your TFSA provider or contact the CRA to request a TFSA transaction summary.
Withdraw The Excess
If you receive a warning letter from the CRA or notice that you’ve over-contributed to your TFSA, it’s best to withdraw the excess money immediately by talking to your financial institution or moving it yourself via online banking. Otherwise, the CRA will charge you for each calendar month that the extra money remains in your account.
So, even if you remove the excess money within the first week or so of January, you’ll still get charged for the full month. If you receive a proposed TFSA return (or RC243), it’s better to fill it out and send them a cheque for the penalty fee, whether you’re going to appeal or not. In that event, the CRA will reimburse the fee if they accept your appeal.
Plead Your Case
Alternatively, if you plead your case to the CRA, they may be understanding, as long as you have a reasonable explanation for the over-contribution and you withdraw the extra money from your TFSA right away. You can do this by resolving the situation with your bank, then sending the CRA a detailed letter showing the steps you’ve taken to do so.
What Is A TFSA?
A TFSA (which stands for Tax-Free Savings Account) is a flexible way for you to save money in a tax-sheltered manner. While TFSA contributions are not tax-deductible for income tax like an RRSP, the interest earned on your contributions is tax-free.
This is great as it allows the money to grow and compound faster. A TFSA also doesn’t have to be a cash savings account (despite its name). It can be used to hold investments in your TFSA account as well.
If you have unused contributions in previous years, that can carry forward and allow you to contribute more than the annual limit.
Watch Out For TFSA Over Contribution
Even though the penalties for TFSA over contributions aren’t necessarily enormous. They’re still something to consider if you want to make the most out of your account. Our two top tips for TFSA contribution are, keep a spreadsheet to track your own contributions. And monitor your banking activity and your CRA My Account regularly.