TFSA basics

Tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) are designed to help Canadians save more.

9 things to know about TFSAs

  1. TFSAs are available to Canadians age 18+.
  2. Starting in 2015, the contribution limit is no longer indexed to inflation and is set at $10,000 per year.
  3. You can save tax free for any goal you want (car, home, vacation).
  4. You don’t need earned income to contribute.
  5. You don’t have to set up a TFSA or file a tax return to earn contribution room.
  6. You can take money out when you want, for any reason, without paying any tax.
  7. If you take money out, you can re-contribute it the following year, in addition to the annual maximum.
  8. You can hold a wide range of investments in a TFSA, like cash, GICs, bonds, stocks and mutual funds.
  9. You can put money into your spouse’s or common-law partner’s account.

2015 increase of TFSA contribution limit

As proposed in the 2015 Federal Budget, the annual TFSA dollar limit for 2015 has been increased to $10,000. This change is subject to parliamentary approval. You can learn more from the Government of Canada.

Contribution limits by year

Starting in 2015, the TSFA contribution limit is no longer indexed to inflation. Prior to 2015, annual limits varied by year. If you don’t contribute the full amount each year, you can carry forward the unused amounts, based on the contribution limits for each year. Here are the annual contribution limits for each year since 2009:

Year Contribution limit
2009 $5,000
2010 $5,000
2011 $5,000
2012 $5,000
2013 $5,500
2014 $5,500
2015 $10,000
You can put money in at any time, up to set limits. You can take money out at any time, without paying any tax.

Making transfers between TFSAs

If you have more than one TFSA, you can transfer funds between them. It won’t affect your TFSA contribution room — as long as the transfer is done directly between the TFSAs. Speak to your financial institution or investment firm to find out how to do this.
If you withdraw money yourself from one TFSA and contribute that amount to another TFSA, it will be considered a separate contribution – not a transfer. That contribution will reduce, and may even exceed, your TFSA contribution room for the year. If you over-contribute you’ll pay a penalty.
Learn more about the rules for making transfers between TFSAs.

Penalties for breaking the rules

  • Over-contributions If you contribute too much to your TFSA, you’ll pay a penalty of 1% per month on the excess amount until you remove it. If you over-contribute deliberately, you’ll pay a 100% tax on any gains or income you make on the excess amount.
  • Prohibited and non-qualified investments – Any gains or income you make from holding these investments in your TFSA will be taxed at 100%. Example: shares of a company in which you have a significant interest (10% or more).
  • Asset transfer transactions – You’ll pay 100% tax on any gains made by swapping investments between your TFSA and a registered or a non-registered account. This is to discourage people from using their TFSA to realize gains on investments that would otherwise be subject to tax. Example: you swap cash in your TFSA for an investment from your RRSP.

Take a look at these examples to learn more about how Revenue Canada calculates tax penalties on over-contributions to TFSAs.

Build your savings faster in a TFSA. How much faster? For an example, read Dominic’s story.

Related resources


Barbara Moore

I assist families, professionals and businesses with their insurance and financial planning needs.  Call or send me an e-mail to learn more about: - Life insurance - Critical illness coverage - RESPs - Benefits I look forward to meeting with you!

  1. You need to update this to 2017 you can not contribute $10,000 any more. I wanted to know if I put $1000.and thake out $500. in the same yr. can I put $5500 the following year?

  2. Barbara Moore

    The article is out of date.

    To answer your question -> yes, you can contribute up to $5,500 in 2017 and take money out in 2017. Then in 2018 you would have a new $5,500 amount PLUS whatever you took out in the previous year. TFSA room regenerates the following year. You may also have past contribution room as far back as 2009 when TFSA started.

    I’d be happy to help you with any other questions or if you want to meet about setting up a TFSA.

    Have a great day!!
    Barbara Moore
    Sun Life Financial
    (519) 641-0202

Leave a Reply