One of the simplest ways to save some money on the side is by opening a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). To help you make sense of it, here are the most common questions we hear from our clients about TFSAs.

1. What is a TFSA?

The TFSA is exactly what its name implies: an account where you can hold the same investments as an RRSP, but there is no tax to pay on investment income and capital gains. Oh, and withdrawals are tax-free too!

2. Why should I invest in a TFSA?

A TFSA is a good account for saving for short-to-medium term purchases, like a car, a new television, or a trip. They’re also a great way to save for retirement, giving you better tax optimization when you withdraw from your investment accounts.

In life, there will always be emergency expenses — and a TFSA is exactly the sort of rainy day fund you can count on to bail you out of a bad time.

3. When can I start saving with a TFSA?

If you’re a resident of Canada, you can open a TFSA as soon as you turn 18 years old. Annual contribution room accumulates every calendar year that you’re eligible for a TFSA.

4. How much can I contribute to my TFSA?

With the contribution clock starting from the year you turn 18, the maximum contribution you can make will depend on which years you were eligible to contribute. The table below outlines the contribution limit by year. So, if you were 18 or older in 2009 when the TFSA was first introduced, haven’t previously contributed, and remained eligible every year since then, your contribution room in 2021 would be $75,500. However, if you turned 18 in 2016, you would only be eligible to contribute up to $34,500 without penalty.

Year Annual Limit
2021 $6,000
2020 $6,000
2019 $6,000
2018 $5,500
2017 $5,500
2016 $5,500
2015 $10,000
2014 $5,500
2013 $5,500
2012 $5,000
2011 $5,000
2010 $5,000
2009 $5,000

5. If I remove money from my TFSA, does my contribution room increase?

When you make withdrawals, the amounts are added back into your contribution room. But be careful! The contribution room isn’t added back until Jan. 1 of the following year.

6. What happens if I overcontribute?

If you go over your contribution limit in a year, the government can tax you 1% of the highest excess amount for every month the excess amount remains in your TFSA — so the easiest solution is just to take it out as soon as possible.

7. Can I keep my TFSA even if I’m not living in Canada?

You have to be a resident of Canada to contribute to a TFSA, but you’re more than welcome to keep it if you move away. But there’s a caveat: any contributions you make while you’re a non-resident will be subject to a monthly 1% tax. So if you’re not living in the country for a while, it’s a good idea to leave your TFSA alone.

8. Where can I open a TFSA account?

Many financial institutions can open TFSAs, including banks, investment companies, insurance companies, trust companies, and credit unions. We offer them here at CI Direct Investing, too.

Do you still have questions about the TFSA? Would you like to open one, or contribute to an account you already have? Contact us and we’ll find what works best for you.