Old Age Security
This federal benefit pays $6,400 a year to long-time residents of Canada starting at age 65. It gets gradually clawed back at an income of $67,700, until it is eliminated at $109,600.
Guaranteed Income Supplement
This federal program for low-income seniors pays up to $8,700 a year for singles, and up to $11,500 for most couples. Roughly 50 cents is clawed back for each dollar of income (not counting OAS). GIS is fully clawed back at $16,200 for singles, and $21,400 for couples.
Pension Income Credit
This is a 15% federal tax credit on up to $2,000 in eligible pension income, which can save up to $300 in taxes for those 65 and older. Eligible income must come from a defined benefit pension from your former employer, a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), an annuity purchased with funds from an RRSP, and a few other sources. Withdrawals from an RRSP don’t count, so if you don’t have an employer pension, convert some of your RRSP money to a RRIF or annuity when you turn 65 to get the credit.
Once you reach 65, you’re entitled to a 15% federal tax credit on income of $6,537, for total tax savings up to $980. But the credit is gradually clawed back when your income reaches about $33,000, until it is eliminated at $76,500.
If you take money from an RRSP, you’re subject to a with-holding tax that starts at 10% for a withdrawal up to $5,000, with higher rates on larger amounts. Note this isn’t an additional tax, but rather a prepayment on the taxes you’ll eventually pay when you file your return.
Before age 71, you have the option of taking money directly from an RRSP or converting to a RRIF and taking the withdrawals from there. At age 71, you must convert your RRSPs into a RRIF or annuity. RRIFs are subject to mandatory minimum withdrawals every year.
If you’re 65, up to 50% of pension income (including RRIF withdrawals) can be split with your spouse. This can help couples even out their incomes and save on tax. You might want to convert part of your money to a RRIF after 65 to generate regular income, earn the Pension Income Credit, and help with pension splitting.
When you convert your RRSP to an annuity (a type of insurance product that guarantees you a fixed income for life), the payments are taxable, just like withdrawals from a RRIF. However, an annuity can provide a smoother and more predictable flow of income than a RRIF.
If you buy an annuity with non-registered funds, generally only a portion of the payments are taxable.