How do adjustments based on employer contributions affect this year’s RRSP contribution room?
The amount you can contribute in a given year will be affected by any pension adjustments or past service pension adjustments you may have.
The amount of pension benefits you earn in a year from an employer pension plan will comprise your pension adjustment, which reduces your RRSP deduction limit for the following tax year. The greater the amount put aside for you in your employer pension plan, the less you will be able to contribute to your RRSP. This reduction occurs because, if you benefit from an employer pension plan or deferred profit sharing plan, you are seen to be receiving benefits similar to an RRSP. Following from the original intent behind creating RRSPs, this limitation is designed to level the retirement savings playing field.
Meanwhile, if you receive additional pension benefits because your employer has upgraded the company pension plan on a retroactive basis, or you have purchased pension credit for past service, that will result in a past service pension adjustment (PSPA). It will also reduce your RRSP contribution room.
The impact of an employer pension plan enhancement may sometimes be sufficient to reduce that year’s contribution limit, and any unused carry-forward room. You will have “negative contribution room”, which will not be decreased until you generate earned income and new contribution room.
If you leave your employment before retirement, you may be entitled to a pension adjustment reversal (PAR), which will restore some of the RRSP contribution room that was lost due to pension adjustments. In that case, the amount of the PAR would be calculated by your pension administrator. It will differ depending on whether your employer plan was a defined benefit (DB) or defined contribution (DC) plan. DC plans involve contributions from the employee, and are viewed by the CRA to be similar to an RRSP. DB plans, on the other hand, generally involve contributions from the employer as well. Therefore, they are viewed as providing an added benefit on top of an RRSP. If you had a DB plan, you will only get a PAR if you give up the right to receive payments from the plan, or if the commuted value of benefits earned under the plan to a locked-in RRSP (generally known as a Locked-in Retirement Account) are less the amounts considered to be a pension adjustment or PSPA.
You may be able to buy back benefits from your employer pension for a time period when you were not participating in your employer pension plan, perhaps due to a leave of absence such as maternity leave.
Funding a buyback can be done as:
- A lump sum payment
- Direct transfer from a registered plan such as your RRSP
If you, as an individual (rather as part of a group), decide to undertake a buyback, please note that the CRA must certify the PSPA calculated by the employer or pension administrator. It is the employer or pension administrator’s responsibility to submit a buyback for certification.
A PSPA cannot be certified if it creates more than $8,000 of negative RRSP contribution room. If so, you will have to weigh the value of the future income generated by adding to your employer pension plan versus the income that could be generated by the funds you transfer from your RRSP.