The money you’ve invested in your RRSPs and RRIFs can be left to a charity or your church. But plan properly so that you benefit from the tax incentives as a reward for your generosity. CNS photo/ Toru Hanai, Reuters

Proper planning ensures your legacy

  • November 3, 2012

After a lifetime of diligent saving and investing, many Canadians find themselves in the fortunate position of being able to support those charitable endeavours that they deem most worthy. Supporting charities is a distinguishing trait of Canadians among global economies, and we are ever-ready to lend a helping hand when there is need.

The methods by which Canadians can support their charity of choice have broadened over the past few years, and we now have the opportunity to be even more generous while receiving more tax incentive than ever before. One of more popular strategies is the designation of a charity as the beneficiary of a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). This allows donors to receive income during their retirement in a tax-efficient manner, and then pass on the remainder of their retirement accounts to their chosen charity.

If an individual designates a charity as the beneficiary of their RRSP or RRIF, there are a few key points to remember:

o The proceeds from the RRSP or RRIF can flow directly to the named charity after the donor passes away, avoiding the delay of probate and the cost of executor fees. Many banks or brokerages will not withhold taxes at source, so the entire amount of the RRSP or RRIF will be donated.

o The funds which flow from the RRSP or RRIF to the charity will still be reported as income to the donor in the year they pass away, and there will be taxes owing. The estate will be able to claim the charitable donation on the final tax return, which will offset the tax liability. The example below illustrates this in more detail.

o The donated amount can result in a tax credit of up to 100 per cent of your net income in the year you pass away. This means that designating an RRSP or RRIF to charity will result in zero tax liability in most cases.

To illustrate these key points, take the example of Andrew, who has designated his parish as the beneficiary of his RRIF. His RRIF is comprised of stocks and bonds valued at $100,000 at the time of death. This means that if Andrew is in the top tax bracket, he will have taxes payable of $46,400. The donation will allow his estate to claim a tax credit of $46,400. Thus, Andrew’s parish receives the benefit of his donation, and Andrew’s family and estate do not incur any tax payable because of his generosity.

Proper planning can ensure your philanthropic goals are met and you get the benefit of tax incentives to reward your generosity.

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