The RRSP & RRIF: Be Aware of Taxable Withdrawals

by | Jan 20, 2023 | Articles

The market volatility in 2022 put many asset values under pressure. Yet, markets are cyclical and we expect prices to eventually resume their climb in the same way as the cycle swings back to more optimism. As such, consider the implications of making taxable withdrawals from either the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). In both cases, allowing funds to remain within the plan can be beneficial to allow asset prices to recover. Here are some other considerations:

The RRSP: Implications of Taxable Withdrawals

For those still saving for retirement, when looking to pay down short- term debt, some may consider withdrawing funds from the RRSP. However, consider the implications of making taxable withdrawals. They will be subject to a withholding tax and must be reported as income on a tax return. You may end up paying more tax on the withdrawal than you’ll save in interest costs on debt. If your current income is higher than it will be in future years, you may be paying higher taxes today than in the future. You will also forego the opportunity for continued tax-deferred compounding, perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the RRSP. In addition, once you make a withdrawal, you won’t be able to get back the valuable contribution room.

RRIF Withdrawals: Are There Ways to Minimize the Impact?

For those who have entered retirement, allowing funds to remain in the RRIF may be challenging given the minimum withdrawal requirement, which is considered taxable income. However, there may be ways to potentially minimize the impact and here are some ideas:

Make withdrawals at the end of the year — By taking your withdrawal at the end of the year, it may allow greater time for asset values to potentially recover. Consider also that making withdrawals at the end of each year, instead of the beginning, allows for a longer time period for potential growth within the plan.

Make an “in-kind” withdrawal — If you aren’t in need of funds from the RRIF minimum withdrawal, consider making an “in-kind” withdrawal. While the fair market value at the time of withdrawal will be considered income on a tax return, you will continue to own the security. If you transfer this to a TFSA, subject to available contribution room, future gains will not be subject to tax.

Split RRIF income with a spouse — Don’t overlook the opportunity to split income and save taxes on mandatory withdrawals. RRIF income qualifies as eligible pension income for pension income splitting. If you have a lower-income spouse and you’re 65 or older, you can split up to 50 percent of your RRIF income to reduce your combined tax bill.

If you are turning age 71 in 2023, here are additional options…

Make the first withdrawal next year — You aren’t required to make a withdrawal in the year that the RRIF is opened. You can wait until the end of the year in which you turn 72 to make the first withdrawal.

Base withdrawals on a younger spouse’s age — If you have a younger spouse, you can use their age to result in a lower minimum withdrawal rate, helping to keep more assets to grow within the plan. This can only be done when first setting up the RRIF, so plan ahead.

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Dave Cooper, CFP®, CIM®
Senior Investment Advisor Portfolio Manager
[email protected]

Tyler Cockbain, BA, CFP®, CIM®
Senior Investment Advisor Portfolio Manager
[email protected]


Justin Nekechuk, B. Ed
Associate Investment Advisor
[email protected]

 Tower Wealth Advisory
212, 1524 91 St. SW, Edmonton, Alberta T6X 1M5
780.484.5777 ext. 1 or 891
Email: [email protected]

The information contained herein has been provided for information purposes only. Graphs, charts and other numbers are used for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect future values or future performance of any investment. The information has been provided by J. Hirasawa & Associates and is drawn from sources believed to be reliable.

The information does not provide financial, legal, tax or investment advice. Particular investment, tax, or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to each individual’s objectives and risk tolerance. This does not constitute a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell securities of any kind. Market conditions may change which may impact the information contained in this document. Wellington-Altus Private Wealth Inc. (WAPW) and the authors do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein, nor does WAPW, nor the authors, assume any liability for any loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. Before acting on any of the above, please contact me for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances. WAPW is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.