Considering how often they’re used, there is a lot of confusion over what a Home Buyers Plan withdrawal really does and how it works.

Q: I have almost finished repaying my Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP). What happens when that is done? Where is my money?

A:  The HBP withdrawal you made in order to purchase your home was a loan you took out from your own RRSP. But that loan has rules.

The main rule is that you have to pay it back in a specific timeframe in order to avoid penalties, which you have been doing.

RRSPs are a way of deferring or delaying income tax, presumably until you retire. In normal situations, any time you put money into an RRSP, you don’t pay income tax on it in that year, giving rise to the tax savings. However that deferral ends when you take the money back out of the RRSP. At that point you pay income tax on the withdrawal as if it’s newly-earned income.

HBP withdrawals are exceptions to this rule: the government lets you take the money out (recall this is money you previously stashed in your RRSPs and hence have never paid income tax on) and continues deferring the income tax on it — but only for a time. You will pay income tax on it if you wait too long to put the money back in your RRSP.

The repayment schedule you have been following as you make your HBP repayments is designed to ensure that the money goes back in before the deferral expires — in other words, fast enough that the withdrawal doesn’t get taxed.

Once you’re paid up, you can once again start adding to your RRSP without some or all of it going to repay your HBP. The advantage is that now you can get the full RRSP tax deferral on your contributions from here on in.

For example:

Let’s say your HBP repayment is $500 per year, and you have $1,000 per year to put in your RRSP. So long as you are still repaying your HBP, the first $500 of your contribution goes to HBP repayment, and the other $500 can be used to get a tax deduction/deferral.

Once your HBP is paid off, the full $1,000 can be used to get a tax deduction/deferral.

Thinking of buying your first home and using the HBP?

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