Tax Matters: Learning for Life

by Michael L. Crawford, BA (Hons), CMA

It does not matter what industry you work in or where you are in your career you can be sure that education is in your future if you want to succeed. In fact the Canadian government believes that education is so important that it will allow you to finance your education from your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). This is known as the Lifelong Learning Program (LLP). Like every other government program the LLP has its own set of rules and guidelines; so here we go.

Conditions

You must be a full time student in a qualifying educational program. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) does not define what constitutes [makes up] a full time student but leaves that up to the institution offering the educational program.

You must be a resident of Canada. Do not confuse resident with citizen. If you are unsure of your residency status, contact the International Tax Services Office at 1-800-267-5177 (for more info go to: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/cntct/international-eng.html)

You must be enrolled or have a conditional offer of enrollment from the qualifying educational institution.

You must complete your program before the end of the year in which you turn 71.

You are responsible for making sure all of these conditions are met. If they are not, any funds withdrawn will become taxable in the year they are withdrawn. This could mean numerous reassessments, back taxes and interest. Make sure you are on side with all these requirements.

Rules

The LLP requires that you withdraw no more than $10,000 in any given year and no more than $20,000 in your lifetime. It is also important to note that you must withdraw the funds from your own RRSP.

The LLP requires that you pay back 1/10th of the loan from your RRSP each year until the loan is repaid. You may pay more than that if you choose. If you do not make a payment or pay less than the required amount, then the amount must be included in your income (or the amount less any partial repayment). You may participate in the plan as many times as you like given the withdrawal limitations above but you may only start a new program in the year after you have brought your LLP balance to zero.

The Canada Revenue Agency determines your payback start date by “…checking on line 323 of the LLP student’s return to see if the student was entitled to the education amount as a full-time student for at least three months. If the LLP student does not meet this education amount condition two years in a row, your repayment period usually starts in the second of those two years.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I didn’t.

So you are excited and you want to start your own LLP. How do you do it? Once you have met all the conditions you need to get a copy of CRA form RC96 Request to Withdraw Funds from an RRSP (www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/rc96/rc96-09e.pdf) and complete Part 1. Then take the form to the financial institution where your RRSP is held and they will complete Part 2. Your financial institution will not withhold any tax from your RRSP withdrawal.

To learn more about the Lifelong Learning Program you can go to CRA’s Lifelong Learning Plan (RC4112) website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/rc4112/rc4112-e.html to get all the details.

The Income Tax Act and other related legislation are large and complex laws that frustrate even the professionals at times. This article is intended to increase your awareness of issues that affect you and encourage you to look more closely at the ones that relate directly to your situation. You are encouraged to seek professional guidance specific to your unique situation.

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