RRSP vs TFSA … quick facts

It is always to consider saving for your retirement and at the same time reduce your income tax and/or maximize your tax refund. Most people will start contemplating which road to go … RRSP or TFSA, but for starters, you may wonder what are they and which one is best for you?


RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) is a savings plan registered with the federal government that allows you to save for your retirement. With an RRSP your contributions reduce your taxable income and your investments grow on a tax-deferred basis – you do not pay tax on interest, dividends and capital gains as long as they are held within the plan.

This differs from TFSA account which does not reduce your taxable income, but does give you the added benefit of not paying tax on your withdrawals.

A person can start contributing any time and at any age till plan holder reaches age 71.


TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account) is a flexible investment account that can help you meet both your short- and long-term goals. Investment income in a TFSA (interest, dividends, and capital gains) are not taxed, even when withdrawn, but unlike RRSP amounts contributed to the account are not deducted from taxable income.

Any Canadian resident age 18 or older with a Social Insurance Number can open a Tax Free Savings Account and you do not need to have earned income to contribute.

Although both types of investments share some similarities, there are several differences. Your investment advisor can help you decide how to best achieve your short and long term goals, but as a rule of thumb it is always a good idea to diversify your investment portfolio.

Contribution room 18% of previous year’s earned income, less any pension adjustment $5,000 / year, subject to inflation adjustment after 2009 as stated by Revenue Canada
Carry-forward of unused contribution room Unused contribution room carried forward until the year the contributor turns 71 Unused contribution room carried forward indefinitely
Require earned income to contribute YesNo
Age qualifications to make contributions Any age until you reach 71Must be over 18 and no maximum age
Are contributions tax deductible? Yes – reduces taxable income No
Tax implications on income growth Tax deferred (not taxed until withdrawn) Tax free (never taxed)
Tax implications on withdrawals Withdrawals are added to your taxable income in the year funds are withdrawn Withdrawals are tax free
Can I withdraw savings for any reason? Yes – but depending on kind of investment. Tax will be withheld at time of withdrawal Yes – but depending on kind of investment. No tax will be withheld at time of withdrawal
Am I required to convert my plan at a certain age Yes – RRSP must be converted to RIF or an annuity by end of the year you turn 71 or you can choose to close the plan No
Are there over-contribution penalty tax? Yes; excess contributions are subject to a penalty tax of 1% per month. Penalty tax only applies if you exceed the $2,000 lifetime over-contribution amount Yes; excess contributions are subject to a penalty tax of 1% per month

So which investment type is a better option?

While the TFSA is a great investment to meet your short and long term investment goals, an RRSP is still one of the best ways to save for retirement. Both offer great ways to save, it will all depend on your short and long term investment goals. Your financial advisor can help you maximize your investments over the short and long term by understanding your goals.

RRSP is a great vehicle to reduce your taxable income and have your investment grow on tax-deferred bases it will help keep you more disciplined about savings since withdrawing the funds may result in paying more income tax. If you are focused on saving for retirement, consider minimizing your income tax with an RRSP and using TFSA as a second source of savings, your TFSA can complement you RRSP by giving you another way to shelter investment earnings for each taxation year. This will specially be useful if you have exhausted your RRSP contribution room or if you are retired and can no longer contribute to an RRSP. The TFSA may also be preferable for those with minimal retirement income prospects who are concerned about losing the guaranteed income supplement or other government assistance that is based on household income.

Please note that the above information is intended as a general source of information and should not be considered as specific source of tax, legal or financial advice. Tax rules and regulations are subject to change at any time, and we at MMS Accounting & Bookkeeping will help you navigate and fully benefit from any tax savings available to you. Should you need help to find out what is the right amount of contribution to make to your RRSP for maximum tax savings, we will gladly provide you with different scenarios. Remember, your RRSP contribution deadline for current year is March 1 of the following year. TFSA contributions work on a calendar year bases, so for contributions for current year, it need to be made by December 31.