Home Personal Finance Large TFSA recontribution mistake places taxpayer in CRA’s crosshairs

Large TFSA recontribution mistake places taxpayer in CRA’s crosshairs

Large TFSA recontribution mistake places taxpayer in CRA’s crosshairs


Jamie Golombek: What was ‘merely an trustworthy mistake’ prompted an overcontribution to the tune of $112,000

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I’ve already made my 2023 tax-free financial savings account (TFSA) contribution … have you ever?

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The brand new TFSA greenback restrict is $6,500 for 2023. And in the event you’ve by no means opened a TFSA earlier than, the brand new cumulative restrict might be as excessive as $88,000 in the event you’ve been a resident of Canada and at the least 18 years of age since 2009.

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Making my contribution was as simple as electronically transferring funds from my checking account to my TFSA, which offers a lifetime potential of tax-free funding revenue and limitless tax-free beneficial properties on the funds’ development. My intention is to make use of these funds in retirement, however TFSA funds will be withdrawn, tax free, at any time, for any objective, comparable to shopping for a brand new automotive, a marriage reception or a down fee on a house.

It doesn’t matter what you select to do together with your TFSA funds, remember the fact that one of many greatest advantages of the TFSA, past the tax-free revenue and development, is the pliability to recontribute any withdrawn funds again to your TFSA, starting the next calendar yr. You’re additionally capable of switch funds from one TFSA to a different, but it surely have to be carried out by way of a direct switch, quite than a withdrawal and recontribution.

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Taxpayers who don’t recognize the nuances of the TFSA recontribution or switch guidelines, nonetheless, might discover themselves in bother with the taxman for overcontributing. That’s precisely what occurred in a case determined in late 2022.

The taxpayer’s troubles started in early 2020, when, needing to maneuver nearer to his younger daughter after separating from his spouse, the taxpayer withdrew $50,000 from his TFSA with the intention of constructing a proposal on a brand new dwelling. He stated he did this earlier than really discovering a house as a result of “in a sizzling housing market wherein there have been usually bidding wars for a similar dwelling, a aggressive bid necessitated that funds be in hand for a proposal to be accepted inside a really brief time frame.”

The taxpayer rapidly realized the housing market was merely “too sizzling for his monetary wherewithal,” so he did what he assumed was “the cheap factor to do” and deposited the identical funds again into his TFSA on Feb. 6, 2020. Sadly, the taxpayer’s TFSA contribution room for the 2020 taxation yr was solely $10,000, such that the redeposit of $50,000 triggered an overcontribution for the month of February of about $40,000.

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The new TFSA dollar limit is $6,500 for 2023.
The brand new TFSA greenback restrict is $6,500 for 2023. Picture by Getty Photos/iStockphoto

However issues turned much more sophisticated later that month when the taxpayer, in an try to consolidate two TFSAs into one account, transferred that very same $50,000 from the TFSA into his common financial savings account after which right into a second TFSA on the identical day.

From the taxpayer’s perspective, he was merely transferring funds from one TFSA to a different. However from the Canada Income Company’s perspective, the switch by way of the financial savings account on Feb. 20, 2020, triggered a second TFSA contribution of $50,000 for the month of February 2020.

Ultimately, what was “merely an trustworthy mistake” prompted an enormous 2020 overcontribution within the eyes of the CRA to the tune of $112,000. (The taxpayer made $22,000 of further TFSA contributions throughout the remainder of 2020).

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Underneath the Revenue Tax Act, there’s a penalty of 1 per cent per thirty days for every month there’s a TFSA overcontribution. Because of this, the taxpayer in July 2021 obtained a discover of evaluation from the CRA, charging him a penalty tax of $6,270, together with $332 in penalties and curiosity.

The act, nonetheless, permits the CRA discretion to grant aid, and states {that a} CRA officer might waive or cancel the penalty tax if the surplus arose by “cheap error” and is corrected by the person “directly.”

The taxpayer wrote to the CRA to request it cancel the evaluation, arguing that “he was not conscious that redepositing the identical funds that had been withdrawn throughout the identical taxation yr would represent further contributions.”

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The taxpayer’s request was denied by the CRA in September 2021 on the idea that though his TFSA overcontribution was unintentional, it didn’t think about the taxpayer’s misinterpretation of the contribution guidelines to be a “cheap error,” because the taxpayer had, again in 2013, already been granted aid on a TFSA overcontribution.

In October 2021, the taxpayer submitted a second request for the CRA to cancel the evaluation, which was once more denied. The taxpayer then took the matter to Federal Courtroom, the place the choose’s function is to find out whether or not the CRA officer’s refusal to train their discretion to disclaim the taxpayer aid was “cheap.”

As in prior circumstances, an affordable resolution is one that’s “based mostly on an internally coherent and rational chain of study and that’s justified in relation to the information and legislation that constrain the choice maker.” Usually, a CRA resolution is just not put aside until it accommodates “sufficiently critical shortcomings … such that it can’t be stated to exhibit the requisite diploma of justification, intelligibility and transparency.”

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Arguing one’s normal ignorance of the legislation is just not, by itself, adequate to show an error was cheap. Fairly, “cheap error” is restricted to conditions the place the overcontributions occurred for causes outdoors the taxpayer’s management, which may embody financial institution errors, bodily disasters, civil disruptions, a critical sickness or accident, or misery.

The choose was sympathetic in direction of the taxpayer, however nonetheless concluded he was a “repeat overcontributor” and didn’t make an affordable error in overcontributing in 2020, thus the CRA officer’s resolution to disclaim him aid was rational.

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“The brink for the dedication of an affordable error is excessive as our tax guidelines are based mostly on a self-reporting system that depends on taxpayers to know or learn of the legislation and to take cheap steps to adjust to (it),” the choose stated. “For TFSA functions, taxpayers are answerable for being conscious of their contribution limits and for making certain that their contributions adjust to relevant guidelines.”

Ultimately, the choose merely felt the surplus TFSA contributions had been made by the taxpayer due to his misunderstanding of the principles, and never, subsequently, the consequence of an affordable error, which can have warranted aid.

Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP, is the managing director, Tax & Property Planning with CIBC Non-public Wealth in Toronto. Jamie.Golombek@cibc.com.


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