Thursday, January 5, 2023
HomePersonal FinanceLarge TFSA recontribution mistake places taxpayer in CRA's crosshairs

Large TFSA recontribution mistake places taxpayer in CRA’s crosshairs

Jamie Golombek: What was ‘merely an trustworthy mistake’ precipitated an overcontribution to the tune of $112,000

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I’ve already made my 2023 tax-free financial savings account (TFSA) contribution … have you ever?

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The brand new TFSA greenback restrict is $6,500 for 2023. And when you’ve by no means opened a TFSA earlier than, the brand new cumulative restrict could possibly be as excessive as $88,000 when you’ve been a resident of Canada and a minimum of 18 years of age since 2009.

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Making my contribution was as simple as electronically transferring funds from my checking account to my TFSA, which offers a lifetime potential of tax-free funding revenue and limitless tax-free features on the funds’ development. My intention is to make use of these funds in retirement, however TFSA funds will be withdrawn, tax free, at any time, for any function, akin to shopping for a brand new automotive, a marriage reception or a down fee on a house.

It doesn’t matter what you select to do together with your TFSA funds, remember the fact that one of many largest advantages of the TFSA, past the tax-free revenue and development, is the pliability to recontribute any withdrawn funds again to your TFSA, starting the next calendar yr. You’re additionally in a position to switch funds from one TFSA to a different, nevertheless it have to be performed by way of a direct switch, relatively than a withdrawal and recontribution.

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Taxpayers who don’t admire the nuances of the TFSA recontribution or switch guidelines, nonetheless, may discover themselves in bother with the taxman for overcontributing. That’s precisely what occurred in a case determined in late 2022.

The taxpayer’s troubles started in early 2020, when, needing to maneuver nearer to his younger daughter after separating from his spouse, the taxpayer withdrew $50,000 from his TFSA with the intention of constructing a suggestion on a brand new dwelling. He mentioned he did this earlier than really discovering a house as a result of “in a sizzling housing market through which there have been usually bidding wars for a similar dwelling, a aggressive bid necessitated that funds be in hand for a suggestion to be accepted inside a really brief time period.”

The taxpayer rapidly realized the housing market was merely “too sizzling for his monetary wherewithal,” so he did what he assumed was “the cheap factor to do” and deposited the identical funds again into his TFSA on Feb. 6, 2020. Sadly, the taxpayer’s TFSA contribution room for the 2020 taxation yr was solely $10,000, such that the redeposit of $50,000 triggered an overcontribution for the month of February of about $40,000.

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The new TFSA dollar limit is $6,500 for 2023.
The brand new TFSA greenback restrict is $6,500 for 2023. Photograph by Getty Pictures/iStockphoto

However issues turned much more difficult later that month when the taxpayer, in an try and consolidate two TFSAs into one account, transferred that very same $50,000 from the TFSA into his common financial savings account after which right into a second TFSA on the identical day.

From the taxpayer’s perspective, he was merely transferring funds from one TFSA to a different. However from the Canada Income Company’s perspective, the switch by way of the financial savings account on Feb. 20, 2020, triggered a second TFSA contribution of $50,000 for the month of February 2020.

In the long run, what was “merely an trustworthy mistake” precipitated a large 2020 overcontribution within the eyes of the CRA to the tune of $112,000. (The taxpayer made $22,000 of extra TFSA contributions throughout the remainder of 2020).

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Below the Revenue Tax Act, there’s a penalty of 1 per cent per 30 days for every month there’s a TFSA overcontribution. Consequently, the taxpayer in July 2021 obtained a discover of evaluation from the CRA, charging him a penalty tax of $6,270, together with $332 in penalties and curiosity.

The act, nonetheless, permits the CRA discretion to grant reduction, and states {that a} CRA officer could waive or cancel the penalty tax if the surplus arose by “cheap error” and is corrected by the person “immediately.”

The taxpayer wrote to the CRA to request it cancel the evaluation, arguing that “he was not conscious that redepositing the identical funds that had been withdrawn throughout the identical taxation yr would represent extra contributions.”

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The taxpayer’s request was denied by the CRA in September 2021 on the idea that although his TFSA overcontribution was unintentional, it didn’t take into account the taxpayer’s misinterpretation of the contribution guidelines to be a “cheap error,” for the reason that taxpayer had, again in 2013, already been granted reduction on a TFSA overcontribution.

In October 2021, the taxpayer submitted a second request for the CRA to cancel the evaluation, which was once more denied. The taxpayer then took the matter to Federal Courtroom, the place the decide’s function is to find out whether or not the CRA officer’s refusal to train their discretion to disclaim the taxpayer reduction was “cheap.”

As in prior instances, an inexpensive resolution is one that’s “primarily based on an internally coherent and rational chain of research and that’s justified in relation to the details and regulation that constrain the choice maker.” Usually, a CRA resolution is just not put aside until it incorporates “sufficiently severe shortcomings … such that it can’t be mentioned to exhibit the requisite diploma of justification, intelligibility and transparency.”

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Arguing one’s basic ignorance of the regulation is just not, by itself, adequate to exhibit an error was cheap. Slightly, “cheap error” is restricted to conditions the place the overcontributions occurred for causes outdoors the taxpayer’s management, which might embrace financial institution errors, bodily disasters, civil disruptions, a severe sickness or accident, or misery.

The decide was sympathetic in direction of the taxpayer, however nonetheless concluded he was a “repeat overcontributor” and didn’t make an inexpensive error in overcontributing in 2020, thus the CRA officer’s resolution to disclaim him reduction was rational.

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“The edge for the dedication of an inexpensive error is excessive as our tax guidelines are primarily based on a self-reporting system that depends on taxpayers to know or be told of the regulation and to take cheap steps to adjust to (it),” the decide mentioned. “For TFSA functions, taxpayers are accountable for being conscious of their contribution limits and for making certain that their contributions adjust to relevant guidelines.”

In the long run, the decide merely felt the surplus TFSA contributions had been made by the taxpayer due to his misunderstanding of the principles, and never, subsequently, the consequence of an inexpensive error, which can have warranted reduction.

Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP, is the managing director, Tax & Property Planning with CIBC Personal Wealth in Toronto.


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