Moving An IRA or 401(k) to Canada

By iowa_spirit_walker via FlickrIf you have lived or worked in the U.S., you may have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or 401k plan. Leaving these accounts in the U.S. can be administratively challenging and you may wish to consider moving them to Canada. In certain circumstances, a person with a 401k or IRA may be able to rollover their U.S. retirement account to a Canadian RRSP. The process can be tricky because the tax systems in Canada and the U.S. are different.

Moving a 401(k)

Moving a 401k to a Canadian RRSP differs slightly from the process for an IRA because the 401k is an employer sponsored plan and you must determine if the plan itself qualifies for the transfer. The tax treatment of moving your 401k to Canada depends on whether you were a resident of Canada at the time the contributions were made to the plan.

If You WERE A Resident When The Contributions Were Made

If you were a resident of Canada when your employer contributed to the plan, you will not be allowed to rollover the 401k to an RRSP. Although you can cash out your 401k, the lump-sum will be taxable in Canada. However, you can offset this by contributing to your RRSP, if you have RRSP contribution room available.

If You WERE NOT A Resident When The Contributions Were Made

A lump-sum payment from a 401k that are considered to be in the form of pension or superannuation attributed services rendered while you were NOT a resident of Canada may be transferred to an RRSP without affecting your RRSP contribution room.

The Conditions To Transfer The 401k

Transferring a 401k to an RRSP without affecting your RRSP contribution room is possible provided you meet the following conditions:

  1. Lump-Sum Payments Only – The amount received from the 401k must be a lump-sum payment and not be part of a series of periodic payments.
  2. Non-Resident Contributions – As outlined above, the payment must be the result of services rendered while you or your spouse or common law partner was not a resident of Canada.
  3. Included In Taxable Income – You are required to report the gross amount (i.e. before U.S. withholding tax or the penalty tax) in your taxable income on Line 115.
  4. Contribute By The Deadline – You must make a contribution to your RRSP for an amount up to the gross amount received within 60 days after the end of the tax year you received the lump-sum payment. This is done under s.60(j)(i) of the Income Tax Act and is reported on Line 240 of Schedule 7.

You should advise your RRSP plan provider that the contribution is a section 60(j)(i) contribution. However, the plan provider will typically issue a standard RRSP slip and there is special tax reporting required on your tax return to report the transfer properly.

Consider The Tax Implications

The transfer will have some tax consequences depending on your Canadian income, tax status in the United States and your age. A non-U.S. person will be subject to a 30% U.S. withholding tax and if you are under age 59.5 plus a 10% penalty tax. For Canadian tax purposes, the gross amount is included in your income and you deduct the amount contributed to your RRSP under s.60(j)(i). The 30% withholding tax may be claimed as a foreign tax credit but if you paid the 10% penalty tax, it cannot be claimed.

Moving An IRA?

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is very similar to a Canadian RRSP.  Contributions made to the account may be deducted from income in they year the contributions were made.  Income accumulates in the account free of tax and is taxed as income when withdrawn.  Withdrawals or collapse of the IRA before age 59-1/2 are also subject to the penalty taxes.

From a Canadian point of view a regular IRA can be rolled into an RRSP without affecting your RRSP contribution room.

The lump-sum payment must be included in your taxable income and you can make a contribution to your RRSP under s.60 of the Income Tax. Like the 401k, the IRA will be subject to U.S. withholding tax and potentially the penalty tax. The withholding tax may be claimed as a foreign tax credit.

Looking For Help

We are a Burlington Accounting firm that provides both U.S. and Canadian tax services. We can carefully analyze your specific situation to determine the best strategy to move your U.S. retirement accounts to Canada and any Canadian and U.S. filing obligations met. Give us a call today at 289-288-1206 to discuss your needs.

Dean Paley

A graduate of Simon Fraser University, Dean started and operated an independent painting company while perusing a degree at SFU. After graduating from Simon Fraser, Dean entered the Certified General Accountants Program of Professional studies where he obtained the professional CGA designation. After a number of successful years as the head of finance for the Canadian operations in a global financial services firm, Dean moved into a marketing role and established and launched a tax, estate and financial planning support department and service to advisors and clients. During this time Dean successfully obtained the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. Dean has been a member of the Canadian Forces Reserve spanning three decades serving in the Royal Westminster Regiment (B.C.), the Military Police and later as a commissioned officer in the Cadet Instructors Cadre in Hamilton Ontario. Dean Paley CGA CFP has been interviewed and quoted in major media such as the National Post, Financial Post, Toronto Star, Canadian Business, Money Sense and Investment Executive. Dean is married to his lovely wife Deborah and has four lovely children.