Seniors warned of self-directed RRSP schemes

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is warning Canadians about getting involved in tax schemes where promoters, including some tax representatives and tax preparers, are claiming individuals can make withdrawals without paying taxes from their self-directed Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP).

A self-directed RRSP is one where you control the assets of your RRSP and make the investment decisions yourself. Tax schemes are plans and arrangements that contravene the Income Tax Act. They deceive taxpayers by promising to reduce the taxes they owe. For example, these schemes may promise large deductions or tax-free income.

Promoters of financial schemes promise RRSP owners they can make tax-free withdrawals from their RRSPs. Typically, the arrangement involves using an individual’s self-directed RRSP to purchase the shares of a private company or interest in mortgages (usually at highly inflated values). The funds used in the purchase are loaned back to the owner of the self-directed RRSP at low or no interest.

Consider the following before you withdraw from your self-directed RRSP: does the promoter’s fee you are paying appear to be more than what is normally paid? Do you understand the service being offered to you and why a fee is being charged?  Are you getting the funds back immediately, seemingly tax free? Are you getting the funds back by debit/credit cards, offshore bank accounts or ownership in time-shares or any other type of benefit? Are you promised unrealistic returns based on the current investment rates? Do some research of average returns to see if what you are being promised is reasonable.  Are you re-investing the original funds removed from your RRSP in order to get a new RRSP tax deduction receipt?

If you answered “yes” to any of the considerations above, the CRA says that this could be a scheme. Be wary of ads, word of mouth or seminars in which any of the above are present.

Your actions may have serious consequences.

Through increased audits of promoters, improved intelligence gathering and strengthened communication with taxpayers, the CRA continues to identify and shut down tax schemes.  Those who choose to participate in these schemes, as well as those who promote them, face serious consequences, including penalties, court fines and even jail time.

When CRA finds out about the scheme, you will be re-assessed for the amount of the RRSP used in the scheme including interest and penalties.

The CRA encourages all Canadians to seek an independent second opinion from a reputable tax professional on important tax matters.

For more information on tax schemes, go to

-Debbie MacDonald Moynes