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The Ultimate Guide to Informal Trusts (For Canadians)

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Important note

Much has changed with informal trusts since I first published this post in 2021. Please jump to Section 8: Latest Updates and read the info there before opening a new informal trust. In my opinion, it may no longer be worth the hassle.

The Ultimate Guide to Informal Trusts

Some lucky people may be fortunate enough to have excess funds for the children in their lives. If this is you, congratulations! It’s no small feat to reach this level of financial abundance. 

However, when considering what to do with this money, you may be faced with some issues: 

  • The kids’ RESPs are fully topped-up.
  • They’re too young for TFSAs.
  • They have no earned income for RRSPs.
  • Kids’ savings accounts pay almost no interest.

What now? 

Is there any way to put this surplus money to work? Why yes, there is! You can open something called an informal trust (otherwise known as an ITF or “’in-trust-for” account).

Informal trusts aren’t as well-known as I think they should be, and I hope to shed more light on them with this post. 

About this post

When researching informal trusts, I found the articles on these accounts to be light on helpful info and heavy on scary, vague warnings. To me, they mostly seem to say:

“Informal trusts can be great! But they’re not formal trusts (which are legal and valid because they’re written by lawyers). Due to the lack of formality in informal trusts, you could be setting yourself up for a world of trouble by using them. That said, we still think they’re great! But we’re not your advisors, so we’re going to keep things very vague and won’t tell you what to do (or not do). Good luck!”

That’s not very helpful, is it?

Time to bring in some clarity

I wanted to do better with this post. Instead of repeating the same vague warnings, I made it my goal to provide actionable info and clarity. To do this, I enlisted expert help from (in my opinion) the best financial planner in Canada—Ed Rempel.

Ed has decades of experience in financial planning, tax accounting, and informal trusts. (And, full disclosure, he’s also my financial planner.) Generously, he agreed to answer my many questions about informal trusts and gave me permission to share his replies with you in this post.

About Ed Rempel

Ed Rempel is “the main Wise Guy” on his blog, Unconventional Wisdom. He’s also a fee-for-service financial planner and tax accountant with a ton of real-life financial planning experience. 

Ed and his team have been using informal trusts (aka ITF accounts) for 25 years. They have plenty of experience with them and work with CRA’s and all the investment firms’ informal trust rules.

In this post, I will (with Ed’s help) attempt to ease your worries and give you the straight goods on informal trusts. But don’t forget: I’m not a qualified expert, and Ed is not your financial planner, so have a read through the below disclaimers before proceeding.

Disclaimers

  • I sourced most of the information in this post from websites and PDFs I came across in my research. When I couldn’t find factual, clear info, I turned to Ed for the answers.
  • Throughout the post, I’ve made an effort to be clear when Ed provided the info. Everything that’s not credited to Ed is based on my own experience or interpretation of information I found in my research. 
  • I’ve made every attempt to be accurate with the info shared in this post. However, please consult your own expert(s) and do your own research and due diligence. 
  • This info is provided as general information only and should not be taken as financial or legal advice.

Part 1: The basics of informal trusts

This section will cover the basics of informal trusts, including what they are, terminology you’ll come across, and how they compare to formal trusts. Let’s start with some of why you might want to consider an informal trust (or in-trust-for account).

Q. Why consider an informal trust?

Ed suggested that we start this post with why you might want to consider an informal trust or ITF account. Here are his top reasons:

1. Saving for “anything else”

RESPs are best for education savings, but ITF accounts are usually best for saving for anything else. RESPs should be withdrawn fully while the kids are in university, so they are not good for anything the kids will want after university.

2. Saving for future large expenses

ITFs are getting more common. The main uses are education savings above the RESP limits and a down payment for their first home. With real estate getting out of reach for young people, ITF accounts are a great place for parents to save a down payment.

3. Tax-free growth

With proper tax planning, investments in ITF accounts provide essentially tax-free growth. (Assuming you crystallize gains before they get too big—see the taxation section for more on this.)

Q. What’s an informal trust?

Informal trusts are also known as ‘in-trust-for accounts’ or ITF accounts. They’re a type of non-registered account that allows an adult to invest on behalf of a minor child.

Typically, the adult(s) will be a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. But any adult can open an informal trust for a child. There are several benefits to informal trusts, but the main benefit is their tax efficiency. 

Informal trust terminology

  • ITF (in-trust-for) account: Another name for informal trusts.
  • Contributor or donor: The person who contributes to the child’s informal trust.
  • Beneficiary: The minor child who benefits from and is the legal owner of the informal trust.
  • Trustee: The person who manages the informal trust.
  • Settlor: The person who creates or ‘settles’ a trust. (This term usually is only used when referring to formal trusts, but you may see it referenced in articles about informal trusts.)
  • Second-generation income: Income earned from first-generation income.

Q. What are the differences between formal and informal trusts?

Formal and informal trusts are both valid and legal, but there are important differences. Here’s a comparison:

Formal trustInformal trust
Must be drafted by a lawyer.Quick and easy to open; does not require a lawyer.
Expensive to set up and maintain. (Lawyers and accountants are usually required.)No or minimal cost to set up and maintain.
Comprehensive and complex structure and taxation.Straightforward structure and taxation.
Provides more options, protections and control.Offers less protection and control once child is of legal age.
Is more likely to stand up if contested or challenged.If not correctly set up, may not be recognized by CRA; penalties and back taxes may be assessed.

Q. Which is better: formal or informal trusts?

The answer is, it depends. From what I’ve read, formal trusts start at around $1,000 to set up. After that, there may be ongoing fees to pay a trustee to manage it. 

In addition, there are other factors to consider when deciding on a formal versus informal trust:

  • Can the child be trusted to manage the money responsibly when they reach the age of majority?
  • Would you like greater control over how much the child receives from the trust and when they receive the money?
  • Are there other reasons which would justify the need for increased protective measures in the trust?

I suspect that informal trusts will be the best choice for most families. But your specific situation may dictate otherwise. Consider your needs and wants to decide which is best for you.

Part 2: The benefits of informal trusts

There are many benefits that are unique to informal trusts:

1. Tax advantages

Informal trusts are not tax-sheltered (like RESPs), tax-free (like TFSAs), or tax-deductible (like RRSPs), but they still offer significant tax advantages. 

These tax advantages are, by far, the biggest reason why people choose to open informal trusts. Here’s how taxation works with investments held in informal trusts: 

  • Income (e.g. interest and dividends) is taxed in the hands of the contributor or trustee.
  • Capital gains are taxed in the child’s hands (which typically means they’ll pay little or no tax).

Even better—in some cases, the income can also be attributed to the child! 

See the taxation section for more details on these tax advantages.

2. Simple and easy to use

Another benefit of informal trusts is their simplicity:

  • They’re free and easy to open.
  • They’re easy to use and maintain.
  • Most (if not all) brokerages and banks offer them.
  • They don’t require professional help to set up or maintain.

3. More flexible than RESPs

While I think RESPs should be the first choice for kids’ investment money*, they’re not the right choice for everyone. In addition, some lucky families have already filled their RESPs and need another account to invest their childrens’ money. 

In these cases, you’ll be glad to hear that informal trusts are a great alternative (or companion) to RESPs. Here’s why:

  • There are no limits on contributions or withdrawals from informal trusts.
  • There are no restrictions on how the money is used (other than it must be used for the beneficiary’s benefit).
  • You can hold USD investments in informal trusts—with no expensive or troublesome workarounds.
  • Informal trusts don’t require a stack of paperwork or long wait times to open up.
  • If the child is in a higher tax bracket when they withdraw, funds from an informal trust will be taxed more lightly than funds from an RESP.

*See the additional thoughts section for more of my thoughts on RESPs versus informal trusts.

4. Simplifies recordkeeping

Holding the child’s investments in their own account helps to simplify recordkeeping and tracking. (As opposed to commingling their money in one of your own investment accounts.) 

When they reach the age of majority, transferring the assets to the child will be straightforward (since the assets are already legally theirs).

5. Pride of ownership

Another benefit to holding a child’s investments in their own informal trust is that it gives them a greater sense of ownership. They know this is their money, and can take pride in nurturing it and watching it grow.

6. Real-life teaching tool

The adult trustee in charge of managing the informal trust can use it as a teaching tool for the child. Since the child knows this is their money, they’ll likely have more interest in learning how to invest and grow it.

Part 3: The downsides of informal trusts

As wonderful as informal trusts are, there are a couple of potential downsides to keep in mind:

1. Lack of control

There are different takes on this issue. Most info on the internet has this to say about informal trusts:

Unlike a formal trust, you have very little control over what happens when the beneficiary reaches the age of majority. At that point, they’ll legally be allowed to access the trust’s assets, which means they could have free rein with the money.

You can’t delay the child’s access to an older age, control how much they withdraw or stipulate how they’ll spend the money. If they want to withdraw it all and spend it on a sports car, you’ll have no recourse!

Now, here’s Ed’s take on this issue:

“The trustee controls the account, even after the child turns 18. The account is in their name, so the investment firm needs the trustee to sign transactions. 

Technically, the child can demand the money, but in practice, they can’t get it without the trustee’s signature. This is important because the parents can effectively control the account until the child is mature enough to handle it.”

– Ed Rempel

My takeaway

Personally, I trust Ed’s advice 100% here. Based on how my kids’ ITF accounts are structured, I can see that we are joint holders of the account with each child. I also see that it clearly states that we are the trustees. 

I believe that all financial institutions would follow similar protocols with their informal trusts and require that trustees sign off on transactions. So, based on what Ed’s shared, there should be no worries when the beneficiary of an informal trust reaches the age of majority.

See the “Logistics” section for more ideas on how to prevent a beneficiary from withdrawing funds from their informal trust.

2. They’re irrevocable

Once again, there are different takes on this issue. Here’s what many articles say about the irrevocability of informal trusts: 

Informal trusts are irrevocable, which means you cannot change your mind and close the trust once it’s open. In addition, all assets deposited into the informal trust become the permanent property of the beneficiary (no one can revoke or take them back). 

Once deposited into the account, the assets may only be used for the benefit of the beneficiary. You cannot withdraw the funds for your or any other individual’s use. Given this, be sure you or the contributor are prepared to give the assets to the beneficiary permanently.

Now, here’s Ed’s take on the irrevocability of informal trusts, which is rather different:

“There are lots of disclaimers in articles that worry people unnecessarily, saying that the money in an ITF account belongs to the kids. Parents cannot take it, and if they do, all the income since the beginning is taxable to the parents. This is usually not true:

The money should be used for the benefit of the kids, but parents have spent a ton of money over the years for the benefit of the kids. If parents withdraw it and are audited, they usually would have no trouble proving to CRA they spent that much for the benefit of the kids.

Legally, the money belongs to the kids. If parents change their minds and keep it, the legal issue is that technically the kids can sue the parents for the money. In practice, a lawyer I discussed this with says the truth is this has never been tested in court. No kid has ever sued their parents over withholding money in an ITF account (to his knowledge).”

– Ed Rempel

My takeaway

Again, I trust Ed’s advice, given his extensive and long-term experience with informal trusts. However, consult your own experts to confirm this is true, based on your situation.

3. They could be shut down with little notice

I wasn’t expecting this to happen, but it seems at least one bank (CIBC) will no longer be offering informal trusts. A reader named Randy left this helpful comment on November 16, 2023: 

“Just received letter from CIBC advising ALL ITF’s will be converted to individual accounts in name of trustee only, removing wording ” in trust for”, and removing beneficiary name, and ITF’s no longer offered. Decisions re accounts must be made by Dec 1, 2 weeks hence. With 6 weeks remaining in tax year, to say I’m angry is an understatement. There are some people who are going to have serious tax implications IMHO.”

– Randy (November 16, 2023)

My takeaway

This loomed as a potential risk at the beginning of 2023, when the federal government changed the rules on trust reporting. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about how these new rules will affect informal trusts, but it looks like CIBC isn’t willing to deal with these accounts any longer.

That’s really unfortunate. I hope that anyone with an informal trust at CIBC has been regularly crystallizing their capital gains so as to avoid them growing large enough to be taxed. 

This is an important reminder for all holders of informal trusts—keep an eye on your capital gains! Don’t let them get too big before you sell and rebuy so that you can bring the cost basis up and avoid crystalizing a large gain all at once.

I hope CIBC isn’t the first domino to fall, with more to follow. That would be such a huge loss for hardworking Canadian families. If you or anyone you know has been notified that your bank is closing your informal trust(s), please comment to let us all know. 

If anything, it will help all of us have a better idea of what’s happening on the ground with informal trusts.

Part 4: The logistics of informal trusts

Q: Who can open an informal trust?

Usually, it’s a related adult (parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle), but any adult can open an informal trust account for a child. The person who opens the informal trust can be the contributor, trustee, or both.

Q: How do you open an informal trust?

In my experience, informal trusts are opened the same way you would open a non-registered investment account for an adult. The form(s) may be slightly different or have a few extra fields, but the overall process is the same.

Each bank or brokerage will do things differently, but opening an informal trust is generally straightforward.

Q: Which banks and brokerages offer informal trusts?

I’ve held informal trust accounts at Scotia iTrade, Questrade, Laurentian Bank, and Fidelity Clearing Canada. 

In my research for this post, I came across PDFs, articles and application forms for informal trusts from a wide array of Canadian financial institutions.

So, I think the better question would be, “Are there any banks or brokerages which don’t offer informal trusts?” And my answer would be, “Probably not!”

That said, I wasn’t able to research every single bank and brokerage, so give your financial institution a call to see if they offer informal trust accounts.

Q: Who controls the informal trust?

When the child is a minor, the trustee has complete legal control of the informal trust. That means they can do what they wish with the trust and the investments in it. (As long as it benefits the beneficiary and no one else.)

Once the child reaches the age of majority, they and the trustee share control of the trust. The child is legally entitled to the assets at that point, but they must have sign-off from the trustee(s) to initiate any transactions.

Q: Who owns the informal trust?

When a beneficiary is named in an informal trust, they become the legal owner of the assets in the trust. In addition, once a beneficiary is named, it is irrevocable. In other words, it’s irreversible and cannot be revoked or changed.

Q: Can the settlor also be the trustee?

A ‘settlor’ is the person who creates or ‘settles’ a trust. However, this term is typically only used when referring to formal trusts. 

With informal trusts, there isn’t a term for the person who opens the account. That person could be the ‘contributor’, ‘donor’ and/or the ‘trustee’ and may be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, family friend, or even a stranger.

Based on my research, informal trusts do not have settlors, nor does it really matter who opens the account. What does matter, though, is the following:

  • The trustee(s) are named.
  • The beneficiary is named.
  • The contributor/donor understands that their gift to the minor child is irrevocable once it’s deposited into the informal trust. (There may be some flexibility here—see Ed’s take on this.)
  • The contributor/donor understands that they have no legal control over the account or how the money is invested unless they are also the trustee.

Q: How do you ensure that an informal trust is valid?

There’s a lot of confusing info out there about this topic. Many articles warn parents and grandparents to be careful about opening informal trusts because they may not be recognized as trusts.

Even so, the authors don’t outright state that informal trusts should be avoided or that they never work as intended. (In my opinion, that’s because they usually do work just fine!)

Still, I’m no expert, so I would suggest that you get well-acquainted with the issue and make the best decision in your situation. Here are some articles that highlight the potential problems:

1) You must attempt to establish the informal trust as an actual trust: Informal or “In-trust” accounts—Friend or Foe (BMO Private Wealth)

2) How to properly set up an informal trust: Informal trust accounts: How they do and don’t work (Carol Bezaire at Advisor’s Edge)

3) Treat the informal trust as an ‘agency agreement’ instead: How in-trust accounts for your children are taxed (Tim Cestnick for The Globe and Mail)

It’s a scary issue… or is it?

This issue is, for me, the scariest part of informal trusts. Who would want to open one when there could be troublesome tax consequences down the road? Well, Ed has been using informal trusts for 25 years and has this to say about the lack of formality with informal trusts:

“Informal trust rules sound difficult because they are trusts, which are complex. No matter how unlikely, there is always a tendency to put in all the disclaimers and potential things that could go wrong. This worries people unnecessarily.

ITF accounts are informal trusts. They are a trust but without the formal agreement. An ‘agency agreement’ is a very general term for types of agreements where one person has a fiduciary duty for another—mostly for people selling someone else’s products. They are valid because they are informal trusts.”

– Ed Rempel

My takeaway

I feel comfortable with informal trusts because I have the benefit of working with experienced professionals. You may feel differently if you’re DIYing. The best you can do is get informed, consult your expert(s) and decide if you’re comfortable using informal trusts, despite their ‘risks’.

Q: What records do I need to keep?

If you keep the informal trust simple (as we do for our kids) and deposit all the money as if it all came from the same contributor/trustee, these are the records you’ll need to keep:

  • T5s (report on the contributor or trustee’s tax return every year).
  • T3s (report on the child’s returns, assuming they are for capital gains).

If you have an informal trust which only holds assets that are fully attributable to the beneficiary*, these are the records you should keep:

  • T5s (report on the child’s returns, assuming they are for capital gains).
  • T3s (report on the child’s returns, assuming they are for capital gains).
  • Statements that show the income* received by the beneficiary.
  • Informal trust account statements which show the above funds being deposited.

*Assets/income that CRA deems fully attributable to the beneficiary include: Canada Child Benefit payments, inheritances, T4 income earned by the child, and second-generation income.

Q: Does the contributor/donor need to be different from the trustee?

Some articles suggest that it’s best if the contributor/donor is not the same person as the trustee. Here’s what Ed has to say on this issue: 

“No, not for informal trusts. We consider it as the trustee received a gift and then contributed it. Formal trusts usually have three parties: a settlor who puts the money in, a trustee who is responsible for it, and the beneficiary. 

In the case of informal trusts, the trustee is usually both the settlor and the trustee. It is not really an issue with informal trust accounts.

If a third party contributes money to an account, there could be a potential issue with the anti-money laundering rules in securities. That third party is supposed to be vetted by the securities firm. That’s why we consider that the trustee contributed it.”

– Ed Rempel

Q: Can the informal trust be rolled into a TFSA?

Yes, absolutely! But how much can be rolled over will be limited by the beneficiary’s contribution room. Here’s how it would work:

  • Open the TFSA when the beneficiary turns 18.
  • Sell investments in the informal trust or transfer them in-kind to the TFSA. (Be careful not to over-contribute. This may be tricky when transferring a volatile investment in-kind.)
  • The beneficiary would need to report the capital gains on their tax return for that year. (Even if transferring in-kind—use the book value and FMV on the date of transfer to calculate the capital gains.)
  • Repeat every year, as-desired, or until all assets from the informal trust have been rolled into the TFSA.

Note 

There may be a few extra steps when transferring to the child’s account(s) one day. A reader by the name of John left this detailed comment:

Our in-trust funds are with TD and I am told we cannot simply transfer in-kind from these in-trust accounts to our children’s accounts.

First, our children have to set up an investment account and add us as secondary to the account.

We can then transfer the funds in-kind from the in-trust account to the shared account and then our children can move to their own TFSA/RRSP & trading account.

Once this is done, we can then close the in-trust account which will have a $0 value.

Q: Can the informal trust be rolled into an RRSP?

Yes, but it may not make sense to do this. That’s because the beneficiary must have earned income in order to have built the RRSP room. Since they can contribute their earned income to the RRSP pre-tax, using that money for contributions may make more sense.

Q: Can income from informal trusts create RRSP room?

Income and capital gains from investments are not considered earned income. Therefore, investments in an informal trust will not create RRSP room for the beneficiary.

Q: Are there penalties to withdraw from or transfer an informal trust?

No, just like regular non-registered accounts, there are no penalties on withdrawals. But there may be transaction or service fees—check with your bank or brokerage for details.

Q: How can you prevent the child from withdrawing all the money one day?

When the beneficiary reaches the age of majority, they are legally entitled to withdraw funds from their informal trust. However, Ed shares this info, which should help give parents peace of mind.

“The trustee controls the account, even after the kids turn 18. The account is in their name, so the investment firm needs the trustee to sign transactions. 

Technically, the kids can demand the money, but in practice, they can’t get it without the trustee’s signature. This is important because the parents can effectively control the accounts until the kids are mature enough to handle it.”

– Ed Rempel

Extra measures

In case you want to be extra-careful, here are other ways to make it harder for the beneficiary to withdraw from their informal trust/ITF account:

  • Set up a holding company and transfer assets from the informal trust into the holding company.
  • Set up a formal trust, then sell the assets in the informal trust at FMV to the formal trust. 
  • Purchase a life insurance policy using funds in the informal trust.

These methods could protect informal trust money from an irresponsible child but they’re potentially messy and/or costly. I have a better, more effective solution—see the box below.

How to raise (or help raise) financially-responsible kids

To raise (or help raise) financially-responsible kids, I suggest that you focus on developing a trusting and healthy bond with the child and teach them how to care for, grow and respect their money. Here’s how and why:

Develop and maintain a strong bond

If the child looks to you as someone who genuinely cares for them and has their best interests at heart, they’ll very likely want to follow your advice and guidance.

This bond will also serve as a sort of insurance against irresponsible behaviour once they can access the money. They won’t want to disappoint you and will want to do their best with the money you helped them grow. 

Teach and share

Throughout the child’s formative years, model good money habits and share your knowledge about money and investing. (And, if you want to get advanced, why not also teach them about FI—financial independence?)

This is how my husband and I, our siblings, and other family members grew up to be successful with our money. Not a single one of us has been reckless or anything less than responsible with our finances.

Part 5: Taxation of informal trusts

Alright, here’s the juiciest section! This is where we’ll dive into the most significant benefit of informal trusts—the tax advantages.

Q: How are informal trusts taxed?

The most unique feature of informal trusts is the way they’re taxed. The taxation differs, based on the source of the funds:

1. Contributions which are attributed to the trustee2. Contributions which are attributed to the beneficiary
Source of contributions:
- Gifts.
- Allowance.
- Casual jobs (i.e. paid in cash, with no records)
Source of contributions:
- Canada Child Benefit payments.
- Inheritances.
- T4 income earned by the child.
- Second-generation income.
Capital gains:
- Taxed in the hands of the beneficiary.
Capital gains:
- Taxed in the hands of the beneficiary.
Income (interest and dividends):
- Taxed in the hands of the trustee (when the beneficiary is a minor).
- Taxed in the hands of the beneficiary (when the beneficiary reaches the age of majority).
Income (interest and dividends):
- Taxed in the hands of the beneficiary.

Let’s add some detail to that:

1. Contributions which are attributed to the trustee

Contributions which are attributed to the trustee include income from gifts, casual jobs, allowance, etc. These forms of income are considered as being contributed by the trustee*. 

In this situation, capital gains are taxed in the hands of the beneficiary and income is taxed in the hands of the trustee. (However, once the beneficiary reaches the age of majority, attribution ceases and all income is taxed in the hands of the beneficiary.)

*Even if the trustee is not the one who gave the money to the beneficiary, it’s best to attribute the contribution to the trustee. To learn why, see “Tips to avoid taxation headaches” in the box below.

2. Contributions which are attributed to the beneficiary

Contributions which are attributed to the beneficiary include income from Canada Child Benefit payments, inheritances, T4 income earned by the child, and second-generation income. 

These forms of income are 100% attributable to the beneficiary, so all income and capital gains are taxed in their hands from day one.

In summary

When it comes to informal trusts:

  • Capital gains are always taxed in the hands of the beneficiary. (Yay!) 
  • Income is sometimes taxed in the hands of the trustee and sometimes taxed in the hands of the beneficiary. (It depends on the source of the contributions.)

Tips to avoid informal trust taxation headaches

If you’d like to achieve optimal taxation from an informal trust, be sure to read and understand these tips:

1. The trustee should also be the contributor

When investing money that is not attributable to the beneficiary (gifts, etc.), Ed says:

“If a third party (who is not the trustee) contributes money to the informal trust, there could be a potential issue with the anti-money laundering rules in securities. That third party is supposed to be vetted by the securities firm. That’s why we consider that the trustee received the gift, then contributed it.”

– Ed Rempel

That means, even if the gift originally came from grandma and grandpa, it’s still safer to treat the money as if the trustee is the one who contributed it.

2. Maintain separate accounts

If you’d like to invest contributions that are 100% attributable to the beneficiary (Canada Child Benefits, etc.) be sure to keep those funds in their own informal trust account. 

You cannot commingle these contributions with other money (gifts, etc.), or the attribution rules will apply. This means the contributor/trustee will be on the hook for taxes on all the income.

Q. Do you have to file taxes yearly?

Yes and no. Yes, for the contributor/trustee, who must report and pay taxes on the income earned in the informal trust each year. No for the child, unless they are crystallizing capital gains. 

Q. How can we minimize penalties or taxes? 

Fortunately, there are no penalties for informal trusts. As for taxes, you can minimize them by:

  • Investing for capital gains, not income (interest and dividends).
  • Investing Canada Child Benefit payments, inheritances, T4 income earned by the child, and second-generation income in a separate informal trust so that all the income and capital gains will be taxed in the hands of the minor child.
  • Crystallizing capital gains occasionally, when the minor child has little or no income. (For more details, see Ed’s tips in the box below.)
  • If you’re the contributor/trustee who reports and pays taxes on the income from the informal trust, minimize your taxable income to keep yourself in a lower tax bracket.

Ed’s tips to minimize tax on capital gains

If you’d like to pay no tax on the beneficiary’s capital gains, Ed has this to say:

“ITF accounts can usually grow tax-free with a bit of tax planning. The strategy is to invest for capital gains so that all the income is taxed to the kids. Then, when the account has grown by $10–20,000, you can ‘crystallize’ the capital gain by selling the investments and buying them back. 

This triggers $5–10,000 of taxable capital gain to the kids, which costs zero in tax. Each child gets the basic tax exemption of $13,000/year, and you can crystallize up to $26,000/year of capital gains for each child each year with no tax. 

Many parents make the mistake of allowing the investments to grow for many years until the kids are adults and have other income before selling and claiming a larger capital gain on top of their other income.”

Q. Will the tax forms be issued in my child’s name?

When you open the informal trust, you will be asked to provide the contributor or trustee’s SIN so that T5s will be issued in their name. You will also be asked to provide the beneficiary’s SIN so that T3s will be issued in their name.

When this isn’t the case

Reader Max commented below that his brokerage, Scotia iTrade, issues all the tax slips under “Trustee ITF Beneficiary”. In other words, they don’t differentiate between the trustee and beneficiary—all the slips go to him, the trustee.

I also saw on Reddit that someone else had this same issue at Questrade. This is a worrisome problem that could scare many people away from opening an informal trust. And, unfortuntely, the information on this problem is very much lacking on the internet and from CRA. 

So, once again, I turned to Ed to share his thoughts and experience in dealing with CRA and incorrect informal trust tax slip attribution:

Ed’s comments on informal trust tax slips

To help ease your worries about tax slips being issued in the trustee instead of the child’s name, Ed has this to say:

“The account names must be in the name of the trustee, since minors cannot legally own investments. The tax slips, mostly T5s, are always issued in the name of the account holder, which is the trustee. The same is true of notices of capital gains from investments sold during the year. Financial institutions mostly don’t understand ITFs or do it right, but fortunately, CRA usually understands (but not always).

We try to put the kids’ SIN numbers on the accounts, even though it is not in their name, but most financial institutions have trouble doing it.

The important thing is to just record them correctly on the tax returns. If it is capital gains, just record it on the kids’ tax returns. If that is their only income and there is no tax owing, you don’t have to file those T5s at all.

Occasionally, CRA notices that the parents have a T5 in their name that is not on their tax return and issues an inquiry or a reassessment. We then refile the tax returns with a note saying the T5 is an ITF and is taxed to the child. CRA usually accepts that on the first try, but sometimes takes several tries.

It can be a bit confusing, because the T5 slips often have a mix of income, such as capital gains, dividends and interest on the same slip. The slip needs to be fully recorded on one person’s tax return anyway. If it is mainly capital gains, we consider the entire slip to be taxable to the child. If it is mostly dividends & interest, we put it on the parents’ return.

CRA and the financial institutions do not know about how much of an ITF account is from the Canada Child Benefit or from a gift. The T5 slips come out the same way. This can be part of your reason for recording the T5 slip on the child, if CRA asks.”

Q. Can birthday, holiday or other gift money be contributed in the child’s name?

No, since it could be flagged as money laundering and is hard to track formally. It’s better to handle the child’s gift money this way: consider it a gift to the trustee, who then contributes it to the informal trust. Then, follow the usual attribution rules (income taxed to contributor/trustee; capital gains taxed to beneficiary).

Q. Can money earned from casual jobs be contributed in the child’s name?

This includes income earned by the child for things like babysitting, pet sitting, a lemonade stand, etc. 

My answer: maybe, but it’s likely not much money and not worth the hassle and the risk of CRA disallowing the attribution to the child. I would stick to having the trustee contribute this money then follow the usual attribution rules.

For larger amounts

Some entrepreneurial kids (particularly teenagers) may earn quite a bit from casual jobs such as lawn mowing, home maintenance, or tutoring. In cases like these, you may want to consider carefully tracking this income so that the child can invest it in an informal trust 100% under their name.

However, tread carefully here. Consult your experts and/or CRA to determine what is required as proof of this income and where it came from. (This post from a babysitting website may be helpful as an overview of how to report income from casual jobs.)

Even so, do the math to decide if this is even worth doing. Remember: capital gains are essentially tax-free, since they’re taxed in the hands of the child. If you’re investing for growth and not income (as you should be, to minimize taxes), income should also be minimal.

For example, a 2% yield on $10,000 earned from a year of tutoring would result in $200 of income. If this was taxed to the contributor/trustee at the highest marginal tax rate of around 48%, that would result in $96 of tax.

Consider if it’s worth your time to maintain investments and records for a second informal trust account, just to save $96 per year in tax.

Part 6: Estate planning for informal trusts

If you’re the trustee of an informal trust, you should think about what you need to do for proper estate planning. Below, I’ve outlined what happens when the various people involved in an informal trust pass away.

Q. What happens if the contributor passes away?

According to this post: “If the contributor dies while the ITF account is in place, attribution ceases, and all investment income earned in the account is taxed in the beneficiary’s hands.”

If the contributor was also the trustee, see the next question.

Q. What happens if the trustee passes away?

According to this post: “If the trustee dies, the trustee’s executor will look to the trustee’s will to see if a replacement trustee has been named. If not, the account could remain in the estate’s name until the beneficiary reaches the age of majority.“ 

Ed also has this to add:

“The ITF account (aka informal trust) is legally the trustee’s, held jointly with the minor child. The trustee’s will will determine what happens with the account. The executor for the trustee’s estate should clearly be able to see that the account is intended for the beneficiary.”

– Ed Rempel

Q. What happens if the beneficiary passes away?

According to this post: “If the beneficiary dies, the assets in the ITF account will be distributed under the provincial and territorial rules of intestacy because minors in most jurisdictions aren’t legally entitled to draw a will.“

Ed also has this to add:

“If the child died, we would sell the funds and buy them back to trigger the gains so that we could claim them for them. In general, capital gains up until then are theirs and after that are yours. 

Technically, anytime someone dies, all their investments are considered sold. So it may be possible to claim them on the child’s final return even if we didn’t get to selling the investments. However, it is always simpler to actually sell them so that we have investment company paperwork to support what we enter on the tax returns.

The cost basis for calculating the final capital gains would be the book value on death. Book value is tracked separately and is shown on the statements.

The account would then still be in the trustee’s name, and the trustee can take the money back or change the beneficiary.”

– Ed Rempel

Don’t procrastinate on estate planning

I’m passionate about estate planning. (I even included a lesson on it in my FI School series.) That’s because the consequences could be highly undesirable and very costly if proper plans are not put in place. Don’t procrastinate on estate planning—your loved ones will thank you!

Part 7: My additional thoughts on informal trusts

1. Next-level optimizations may not be worth it

I’m one of those crazy people who loves to optimize their money to the max! Even so, I still draw a line sometimes. Next-level optimizations for my kids’ informal trust accounts is one area I’ve decided to let things go. 

What do I mean by next-level optimizations? 

It’s these perfectly-legal but inconvenient tactics:

  • Investing my kids’ Canada Child Benefit payments in a separate informal trust account.
  • Investing my kids’ second-generation income (income earned from the original income) in a separate informal trust account.

Why do I draw the line on these optimizations?

  • I did the math, and the tax savings would be negligible.
  • The more finagling you do (even if it’s legal), the higher the chances you’ll be scrutinized by CRA. (Who wants more attention from CRA? Not me!)
  • The recordkeeping would be onerous.

When I’d make an exception

If my kids received a large inheritance, I would open a separate informal trust account to invest that money. Then, it wouldn’t be much extra effort to also invest their Canada Child Benefit payments and second-generation income in that same account.

2. RESPs should be prioritized first

As much as I love informal trusts, I still think it’s best to prioritize contributing to RESPs first. Here’s why:

The ROI on RESPs is very high

The government grants you receive for RESP contributions are a guaranteed 20% return on your investment. (The child can receive up to $500 for the first $2,500 contributed per year.) Where else can you get that kind of return—guaranteed? Almost nowhere!

In addition, if the child’s family is low income, they may qualify for the Canada Learning Bond, which is even more free money from the government. Finally, some provinces also offer their own RESP grants (e.g. the $1,200 BCTESG from the Government of British Columbia).

That’s a lot of free government money that’s only accessible through RESPs.

RESPs aren’t as inflexible as most believe

RESPs have a reputation for being difficult to use, but that’s not entirely accurate. In reality: 

  • All contributions can be withdrawn tax-free. 
  • The grants and growth can be spent on anything related to your child’s education (tuition, books, rent, equipment, office furniture, transportation, meals, etc.)
  • You don’t need to show receipts for these purchases. All you need is proof of the child’s registration in a qualified post-secondary program.
  • Up to $50,000 of the unused growth may be rolled into an RRSP.
  • RESPs can stay open for up to 35 years. In that time, the child may decide to go back to school, or the funds can be transferred to a sibling.

RESPs are tax-sheltered

Income earned in RESPs is not attributable to the contributor and remains tax-sheltered until it’s withdrawn. In addition, at withdrawal time, the income will be taxed in the child’s hands—which usually results in little or no tax.

On the other hand, income from informal trusts is attributable to the contributor/trustee until the child is of legal age. The contributor/trustee must report this income on their taxes every year. This could lead to more taxes paid overall than if the money was solely invested in an RESP.

Related: Check out this and this Explore FI Canada episode for all the details on RESPs and how to use them!

Part 8: Latest updates on informal trusts

Recently, the federal government implemented changes in the way trusts are reported. This has generated a lot of concern and uncertainty for those who hold or are interested in opening informal trusts.

Due to the number of questions I’ve received about the potential new issues, I turned to Ed Rempel again to share his insight and experience. I sent him a list of questions which I’ve been asked or saw online. Here are his replies:

Q. Does CRA really not see any difference between formal and informal trusts?

The difference is a legal difference, not a tax difference. In the new CRA rules, they have not referred to the rules applying any differently than formal trusts. However, we are looking for clarity.

– Ed Rempel

Q. Do the new regulations actually require that an additional information return be filed?

“Technically, the new rules appear to apply to ITF accounts over $50,000. However, the tax experts we talk with say ITFs are not necessarily the target and they have been requesting clarity. That has been a continual issue with this government, with nearly all tax legislation requiring lots of clarifying afterward.”

– Ed Rempel

Q. Is it really necessary to document the three certainties*? And if so, how is this done? 

*The three certainties are: 1) intention (to establish the informal trust), 2) subject matter (i.e. the investments), and 3) object (i.e. the beneficiary). 

“Yes, it’s important to document them. The account name and contributions make it clear. It should clearly have the parents’ name, say ‘ITF’ and the kids’ names. That is clearly an informal trust ITF account controlled by the parents and intended for the kids. The money contributed and investments held are clearly the subject matter.”

– Ed Rempel

Q. If an informal trust is set up correctly, could CRA actually deem that an informal trust never existed, therefore attributing all capital gains to the parents?

“I doubt it. It has never happened to my knowledge. Not sure how they could do it if everything is clear. We have been using ITF accounts for 25 years with no issues, other than getting the income taxed to the right party.”

– Ed Rempel

Q. If CRA won’t attribute capital gains to the beneficiary because the tax slips are in the contributor’s SIN, can the trustee fight this? And if they do, are they likely to win or lose?

“CRA does accept taxing the capital gains to the child. Our tax filing team has done some CRA reviews with this and succeeded, but it is a pain. Some of the CRA assessment people don’t seem clear on the rules.

This is an ongoing issue. Most investment firms only have one box for a SIN number for an account. They should have two—one for the contributor and one for the beneficiary. Some investment firms can open the account with the parents and put the kids’ SIN numbers on it, which creates the correct result. 

Then the T3 slips come out with the kid’s SIN number. Our custodian requires the SIN be the account owner. However, we try to get our investment management firm to put the kid’s SIN number on the accounts with the underlying fund companies, since they are the ones that issue T3s.

We are trying to make it work automatically, but our tax filing team gets it fixed for our clients if there is an issue.”

– Ed Rempel

Q. Given the uncertainty about whether the new trust regulations affect informal trusts, would you recommend against DIYing informal trusts?

“Similar to any other tax situation, you can DIY it if you know what you are doing. You need to recognize that CRA might question it and you have to be prepared to provide them info and even fight with them about it. 

Any DIYer will likely not be able to get the kids’ SIN on the account, so it could be an issue regularly with CRA. If you leave the T3 off your tax return, CRA may reassess your return adding it back in. Then you have to send in a T1 Adjustment or amend your return to take it off your return again, with explanations.”

– Ed Rempel

I’d like to send another huge thank you to Ed for taking the time to share his considerable knowledge of informal trusts. I hope his replies provide more insight into how the new regulations may impact informal trusts.

January 2024 updates

There still isn’t a lot of official guidance on how the new reporting rules will affect informal trusts, but from what I’ve heard, the same regulations that apply to bare trusts apply to informal trusts. 

As far as I know (this hasn’t yet been confirmed by CRA) but bare trusts with assets under $50,000 should be exempt from the new rules. However, if the account exceeds $50,000 at any point (even for a day), you must file a T3 for it. If filed professionally, this will cost about $500 per T3 return.

What to do now

If this info is correct, I believe most informal trusts won’t be affected. These accounts tend to be small and therefore won’t exceed the $50,000 threshold. If they ever reach these values, it’s likely in the later teen years, when the child is nearing the age of majority.

In such cases, you could stop contributing to the informal trust (allowing room for investment growth), then invest the child’s money in a TFSA or non-registered account in your name.

Then, once the child reaches the age of majority, you can transfer the amount which exceeds $50,000 into a TFSA and/or FHSA in the child’s name. You could also consider an RRSP in their name (if they have the contribution room) or their own non-registered account.

My updated thoughts on informal trusts

I still think these are fantastic accounts. If you already have an informal trust (or several), don’t panic—read up on bare trust reporting rules and assess how they’ll affect you. Most informal trusts won’t have enough assets to worry about filing a T3 return.

However, some banks are forcing customers to close existing informal trusts (see the comments section). Additionally, another reader mentioned that their brokerage (Questrade) won’t allow them to withdraw any funds until the age of majority—even with proof the money will be used for the child’s benefit.

These issues are very real risks and may be deal breakers for some of you. Consider if your informal trust is worth keeping. If not, consider transferring the investments in-kind to a TFSA or non-registered account in your name until your child reaches the age of majority.

As for new informal trusts, there’s anecdotal evidence (see the comments section) that fewer and fewer banks are opening up new informal trusts. So even if you’d like to open one, you may not be able to. 

Even if you can open a new informal trust, I would hold off until after tax season and CRA confirms more of the details around the reporting requirements. Right now, there’s too much in the air and too many unknowns—better to wait and see how things shake out.

I’ll post more updates here as I have new info to share.

Closing thoughts

*January 2024 update: read Section 8: Latest Updates before deciding if an informal trust is the right choice for you and the child(ren) in your life.

If there’s a special child in your life who has extra money to invest, I would highly suggest opening an informal trust for them. These accounts (also known as ITF or in-trust-for accounts) are a simple, low-cost and tax-efficient way to save for a child’s future. 

Informal trusts offer valuable tax advantages and lots of flexibility. They also serve the important purpose of teaching a child how to invest and grow their own money. There are some downsides and estate planning issues to consider, but overall, the benefits outweigh the issues.

I hope this post was helpful to you. Please feel free to comment below with your questions—I’ll do my best to answer them. (Also, be sure to read through the comment section! There are lots of great questions and answers from other readers that you may find helpful.)

Acknowledgements

Ed Rempel

I’d like to thank Ed once again for sharing his invaluable experience and expertise with me and my readers. I couldn’t have written this post without his help (including all the time he spent reading and checking my post for errors)!

If you’d like more from Ed, or to reach out to him, visit him on his blog, Unconventional Wisdom. You can also listen to Ed on my podcast, Explore FI Canada:

Jolie Viguers

I’d also like to thank my friend, Jolie Viguers for inviting me to do an AMA with her Canadian Ladies Money Club Facebook group. (If not for this event, I wouldn’t have finally mustered up the motivation to write this long and challenging post!)

To get in touch with Jolie, you can join her Facebook group or find her at Well Bean Coaching. You can also listen to Jolie on my podcast, Explore FI Canada:

Max (reader and commenter)

Finally, I’d like to send a very special thank you to reader Max for being such an engaged commenter. I’m so grateful to you for sharing your experience with informal trusts. You’re a wealth of knowledge and have helped to fill in the gaps in the info I’ve shared. Thank you!

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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122 Comments

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    November 15, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    BRAVOOOOOOOO!!!!

    You finally did it! And it’s sooo good! Way more info than any other post I’ve found on the internet regarding informal trusts. Thank you Chrissy and Ed for putting this together.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 16, 2021 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Court—ha ha, thank you for pushing me to do this! It still took me forever to finally put it all in writing, but now it’s done, phew! I hope this helps other parents to discover the amazing benefits of these accounts.

  • Reply
    Mrs B @ The Fire Journey
    November 16, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Thanks so much Chrissy for writing this article and Ed for helping! It is very informative and maybe something people in the FI community would not know about otherwise. Our daughter has an inheritance and it may be beneficial to look into opening an informal trust account for her.
    Always enjoy your posts!
    ~ Mrs B

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 16, 2021 at 7:26 pm

      Hi Mrs. B—thank you for reading the post and for leaving such a lovely comment. An informal trust would be a great way to invest your daughter’s inheritance. Then, you could also contribute her CCB money to that same account and have it all attributed to her. The government doesn’t give us many tax advantages; may as well make use of them when we can!

  • Reply
    KM
    November 16, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Terrific article, thanks for all the work putting this together!
    While it’s clear informal trusts are aimed at the case of minor children, I find the use case for of-age children equally interesting .. giving the parent/trustee some “soft” control over the account (per Ed’s comments about funds-out requiring trustee signature) and _all_ growth taxed to the of-age child/beneficiary makes it a very interesting vehicle to invest in their future!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 16, 2021 at 7:35 pm

      Hi KM—ooh, great point about the “soft” control over the account. That would be yet another important benefit with these accounts. 👍

      I find it amazing and a bit unbelievable that CRA allows these accounts! The potentially tax-free growth is so valuable.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  • Reply
    Max
    November 17, 2021 at 3:25 pm

    This is a great write up and summary on ITF accounts.
    My wife and I have opened ITF accounts for all our grandchildren (with an additional doc defining all the parties). Despite doing it properly (I think), I am still not happy with how taxation is handled by financial institutions, in my case Scotia iTrade. They are issuing all tax slips (T3 and T5) in the name of “Trustee ITF Beneficiary”. This is contrary to what you mentioned under “Will the tax forms be issued in my child’s name” where you are saying that cap gains tax slips would be issued to the beneficiary. I my case, all tax slips (dividends and cap gains) are issued to the trustee, i.e. my name and only my SIN are on all slips. I still see this as a potential future issue with CRA, but I have been trying to ignore it since CRA does not provide much info on ITF.
    If you have some more insight on this, I would appreciate your comments.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 17, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Max—thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve heard that this is an issue at other brokerages, which is rather nerve-wracking. I’ll check with Ed and see if he has any insight to share about it.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 25, 2021 at 10:32 pm

      Hello again Max—I just updated the post with Ed’s comments about the tax slips. Please see the box titled, “Ed’s comments on informal trust tax slips”. I hope that’s helpful to you!

  • Reply
    Martin
    November 24, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    This was my first time on your blog and WOW! This is the most comprehensive article I have come across on this topic. Thank you very much. I spent countless hours researching informal trusts this summer. I left feeling like they were unreliable and ineffective. Still, I decided to set one up for my daughter using Questrade. From everything I had read to that point, the trustee and contributor should be different people but, as you correctly stated in your post, the contributor and trustee are considered to be one and the same for informal trusts at Questrade. Even the staff there seemed to be confused with that fact. Mr. Rempel’s tip on crystallizing gains is genius and I found your entire piece very reassuring. Do you have an opinion on using Horizons ETFs in an informal trust? As you may know, these swap based ETFs do not distribute income and instead convert it to capital gains? Since there are no income distributions I will not see any T-Slips until I sell something. I may just have to do a test sell to see whose name will appear on that T-Slip. I would be very disappointed if it’s not my daughter’s. Thanks again for your brilliant work.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 25, 2021 at 9:15 pm

      Hello Martin—thank you for all the kind words. Knowing that it helped even one person makes all the long hours on this post worth it! I was in exactly the same position as you many years ago when I first opened these account for my kids. I didn’t have Ed to turn to at that time. Like you, I decided to go through with opening the accounts anyway, and just hoped for the best.

      Regarding the Horizons ETFs, they would be the ideal products for this purpose. However, I personally opted to not use them because of the reasons listed in this article from Dan Bortolotti (aka the Canadian Couch Potato): What are the pros and cons of swap-based ETFs?

      That said, many people feel the risks are low, and use these ETFs happily. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision that each investor needs to make for themselves. This post, and the accompanying calculator from The Loonie Doctor may be helpful to you.

      Finally, regarding the name(s) on T-slips, another reader left a comment about this issue, and I also read about it via Reddit. It does seem to be a real issue at the brokerages (but not so much at CRA). Ed kindly shared a detailed response about this, and I’ll add it to the post soon.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment!

  • Reply
    Max
    November 25, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    I have used the Horizons swap based ETFs for my ITF accounts I have set up for my grandkids for several yeas now and I have not seen any problems so far. If you invest in stocks and ETFs, there are all kinds of risks, and one could argue that the Horizons swap based ETFs are at least as safe since the capital is invested in savings accounts at a bank.
    As I have mentioned before, my ITF accounts are with Scotia iTrade and all tax slips I get are issued to “my name ITF grandchild”. I contacted Scotiabank on this a few years ago and they told me that this is the only way they do it and that the trustee is responsible for dealing with them for tax purposes. In some ways they are treating this like a proper trust, where I believe, the trust would have to file a tax return. So far, I have filed these tax slips with the contributor’s (for income) or the beneficiary’s (cap gains) tax returns and CRA seems to be happy with it – at least up to now.
    If Questrade really issues the cap gains tax slips in the name of the beneficiary, I might consider switching my accounts over to Questrade. I’d be interested to hear more about that.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 25, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      Hi Max—thanks for sharing your insights on the Horizons ETFs. Your comments about risks with all stocks and ETFs are very much valid.

      I’m not sure if you saw my new reply to your latest comment, but I have added Ed’s comments about the tax slips. I hope it helps to put your and Martin’s minds at ease! Based on what Ed shared, I think you’ve handled the slips correctly, despite what iTrade seems to think!

      I have heard that Questrade does the same thing and issues all of the tax slips in the trustee’s name. So it wouldn’t make a difference to move to them for that reason.

  • Reply
    Max
    November 25, 2021 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you Chrissy for the update, Ed’s comments make sense to me and I have been handling my slips in that fashion. I think CRA might not bother us much as long as the amounts are relatively small, which makes me think that crystalizing gains periodically might be a good practice for this reason also.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 27, 2021 at 7:39 pm

      Hi Max—I agree that crystallizing gains once in a while is a great idea. Even though Ed doesn’t file returns since there’s no tax owing, I think there’s no harm in doing that. It gives you a little bit of extra confirmation from CRA that they’ve received and processed your info.

  • Reply
    Jeff
    January 1, 2022 at 6:57 pm

    Wow. This is by far the best information on informal trusts I’ve seen. Thank you Chrissy and Ed for all the research.

    I’m considering doing 2 separate loan to my 2 daughters and having them repay the interest annually at the CRA prescribed rate (possibly with the income generated from the informal trust). That way (I believe) income from interest and dividends earned would not attribute back to me but to my kids. Most of the income generated in the trust would be capital in nature but this way I avoid the administrative hassle of separating income to be reported in my account.

    Any thoughts on that?

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 1, 2022 at 11:25 pm

      Hi Jeff—thanks for the kind words! I’m happy to know that this info is helpful to others.

      I previously looked into using a spousal loan from my husband to me, so I’m familiar with this strategy. Yes, you are correct in your description of how it would work. However, my question to you is: is it worth it?

      If you’re investing for growth more than income, you should receive very little income from the informal trust investments. Let’s just say you have $10,000 invested and it generates around 1% in income. That’s $100 per year. Taxed at the highest marginal rate of around 53%, that’s $53 in taxes that you’ll owe per year. Is it worth the extra paperwork and hassles for $53 per year?

      Also, there’s actually very little administrative hassle with ITFs. (Certainly less than with a loan!) You’ll get T-slips for the income and all you have to do is enter them on your tax return. It’s neither messy nor much of a hassle!

      With a loan, you need to keep clear paper trails, make promissory notes, look up prescribed rates, etc. etc. You would also need to hold the investments in their own account, separate from gift, CCB or other money the child would receive. Here’s a good article that outlines all the things you need to do: Lend Money to Your Spouse or Child

      IMO, it’s a tedious, ongoing process—which is why I decided NOT to use a spousal loan in the end! That said, if you have a much larger amount invested, it may be worth doing. I would suggest that, before you make the decision, do the math to see how much it might save you. Then you can make a clearer decision. 👍

      Sorry for the novel of a reply! I hope it was helpful to you.

  • Reply
    Jon
    January 15, 2022 at 10:47 pm

    Hello Chrissy,

    I am considering setting up informal trusts for my two young children, and stumbled upon your blog here in my search to understand this investment option better. I want to start off by saying great job on this blog! One of the most easy-to-read yet comprehensive takes that I’ve seen on the topic of informal trusts!

    That being said, I do still have a couple of lingering questions, and would be interested in hearing your thoughts:

    1.) Can one have multiple beneficiaries on a single in-trust account? Most of what I’ve read alludes to these types of accounts only having a single beneficiary, but none seem to state this explicitly. Do you happen to know?

    2.) I’ve read from a couple of sources that the settlor (donor) may be liable for all income, including capital gains, earned inside the account if “the terms of the trust are such that the trust property may only be distributed with the consent of, or in accordance with, the directions of the settlor, all income as well as capital gains earned inside a trust be attributed back to the settlor. The CRA has generally interpreted this to be the case in situations where the settlor is also the trustee.”

    Are you listed as both the settlor (donor) and trustee on your kids’ ITF accounts? And if so, how did you structure it to avoid attributing capital gains back to yourself in light of the above?

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 16, 2022 at 7:38 pm

      Hi Jon—I’m happy to hear that my post was helpful to you! Below are my answers to your questions:

      1) I also haven’t come across info that states this explicitly and haven’t looked into it myself. My hunch is that only one beneficiary is permitted, but I’d suggest asking your brokerage to see what they say.

      2) Based on my conversations with Ed Rempel, rules like these only apply to formal trusts, where you have to follow everything to the T. For my kids’ informal trusts, my husband and I are the trustees. There is nowhere to name a settlor since this designation doesn’t exist for informal trusts. It’s assumed that the trustees are the donors/contributors.

      Again, based on what Ed’s told me, that’s just how informal trusts work—you don’t need to do anything beyond the correct naming of each party when you set up the account and then filing your taxes accordingly. In doing so, the capital gains should be attributed to the beneficiary without issue.

      If you really want to be sure, I would suggest confirming this with an accountant who’s experienced with these accounts. However, I have filed returns for each of my kids to report capital gains from their informal trust accounts. Both times, the returns went through with no issues. CRA sent NOAs back to us and there were no taxes owing by my kids or us.

      I hope this info helps!

    • Reply
      Max
      January 16, 2022 at 11:32 pm

      Hi Jon,
      I had similar concern when I set up ITFs for my grandkids. To minimize potential future problems with CRA, I created a formal document that clearly defines the parties (settler, trusty, beneficiary) and the intent of it (that the funds belong irrevocably to the beneficiary). All parties signed the document, the donor or settler (my wife), the trusty (myself) and the beneficiary (my children signed for my grandkids).
      income from the ITFs go on my wife’s tax return and cap gains are filed on my grandkids’ returns. I have done this for eleven years now and so far CRA has not challenged this.
      My thinking is that as long as the amounts are small relative to your income, you will not get CRA’s attention. If you’re trying to do this with tens of thousands of dollars, then you should probably set up a formal trust, otherwise CRA will contact you sooner or later.
      In my opinion, you should set up a separate ITF for each of your children because an ITF ends when the beneficiary reaches the age of majority, and unless your children are twins, they will reach age of majority in a different year. If you have one ITF for both, you would probably have some issues trying to split up the ITF when the first child reaches the age of majority.
      These are just my thoughts, I’m not a tax expert or lawyer, please keep that in mind. I also realize that I differ a little bit from Chrissy’s and Ed Rempel’s interpretation of the ITF rules. I hope that is fine with them, since this is, after all, because CRA is not clear on how to implement and manage ITFs.

      • Chrissy
        January 17, 2022 at 8:12 pm

        Hi Max—I’m grateful that you shared your experience. It was prudent of you to have thought to create that formal document. It’s such a simple, easy thing to do and I would suggest everyone do this as an extra backup… just in case. You’re a wonderful grandparent to have set this all up for your lucky grandkids!

        I agree with your point about having separate accounts for the beneficiaries even if only to avoid the headaches of splitting up the account and/or capital gains and income. That’s an excellent point.

        Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed, thoughtful and helpful comment!

  • Reply
    William
    February 4, 2022 at 9:04 am

    What are thoughts on the new (still proposed) enhanced reporting requirement of Formal Trusts and the possibility that these Informal Trust arrangements might fall under these new rules? I have heard a few brokerage firms are ceasing the use of all existing ITF accounts (winding them up or converting to formal trust) and not starting any new ones, due to the vagueness of the new reporting requirements and possibility that they fall under the rules and penalties for failure to disclose. Other brokerages seem to be going ahead with the status quo?

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 4, 2022 at 8:32 pm

      Hi William—great question. This was brought up in a webinar I did with a women’s money group. The consensus was none of us really knows what will happen, but most of us felt it’s more likely that the government will continue to allow informal trusts to remain as they are.

      However, if they will indeed need to be converted to formal trusts, we should be prepared to deal with that. The good news is (from what I’ve been told) it doesn’t have to be onerous or costly to open and maintain a formal trust. I hope that is the case (but I hope more strongly for informal trusts to remain as they are)!

      I haven’t heard any news about brokerages no longer offering informal trusts. If you have any articles to share, I would love to read them.

  • Reply
    John
    April 4, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    Great posts guys and capturing a lot of good information

    We have three intrust accounts for our kids that we want pass onto them now they are all good with money and we have no issues with them having access to their funds.

    Our intrust funds are with TD and i am told we cannot simply transfer in-kind from these intrust accounts to our children’s accounts.

    1st our children have to set up an investment account and add us as secondary to the account
    We can then transfer the funds in-kind from the in-kind account to the shared account and then our children can move to their own TFSA/RRSP & trading account.
    Once this is done we can then close the intrust account which will have a $0 value

    I am told that there are no tax consequences to us or the child with this process

    We have the same issue as others in that the T3/T5 comes to us with the ITF the child in the title but we have done the above with taxes and not had any issues with the CRA.

    does this sound correct?

    Thank you

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 4, 2022 at 7:23 pm

      Hello John—thanks for sharing your experience and for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment. I didn’t realize there were so many steps when transferring money out of ITF accounts! I am not at the stage where we need to do this yet, so I don’t yet have personal experience with it. I very much appreciate your info and will update my post so that others are aware of these extra steps.

      I would agree that there should be no tax consequences when making these transfers (as long as the transfer is in-kind and nothing is sold).

      Regarding the T3/T5 issues, my understanding is that this is the way it is for all of us, so you are not alone! Based on what Ed has shared, it must be done this way in order to comply with regulations. As parents/trustees, we just need to remember this and not be unnecessarily worried that the capital gains will be attributed to us!

      So, yes, everything in your comment appears to be correct. 👍

    • Reply
      Max
      April 4, 2022 at 9:57 pm

      Hi John, you are hinting that your kids would move the investments to their TFSA/RRSP. That means the investments are deemed sold for tax purposes (even if they’re transferred In kind) and your kids would have to report capital gains on their tax return. So, to simplify things, you could sell all investments in the ITF accounts and then transfer the cash to your kids. This should be possible since as trustee you are allowed to make payments to the beneficiaries. Your kids could then contribute all or some of the funds to their TFSA/RRSP and buy investments of their choice.

      We have ITF accounts for our grandkids with Scotia Bank and I was told that the trustee and beneficiary would have to physically visit the bank together to sign over the account. I have not actually done this yet and who knows what the rules will be by then.

      • Chrissy
        April 5, 2022 at 7:33 pm

        Hi Max—thanks, once again, for sharing your real-world experience with these accounts! This is all helpful info.

  • Reply
    John
    April 5, 2022 at 4:19 am

    Thank you

    If I sell all in the in-trust account then that would trigger capital gains which would be around $30k/2 so $15K which is attributed to the child (They are all over 18)

    However if I transfer the funds from the in-trust to a trading account with our child as the primary as described above then I believe its a simple transfer in-kind and no taxes will be attributed at that time.

    But Yes once they transfer into a TFSA/RRSP they will be deemed sold and capital gains would apply

    As they do not have the room to absorb all the In-trust a partial transfer would be better I believe?

    Interesting talking to my kids about how the government wants a slice of your pie at every stage of investing and why the TFSA and then the RRSP are tools you need to use and understand.

    Thank you

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 5, 2022 at 7:44 pm

      Hi John—your plan makes sense to me! However, if your kids are in a low tax bracket, it may be worthwhile to do what Max suggested (sell all or most of the investments in the ITF accounts). That way, you’re crystallizing the gains one last time and paying little to no tax on the gains. In addition, you’ll have official records showing the sale and the new book value.

      Whatever you choose to do, we’re really just splitting hairs here! You’ve done an amazing thing to have maintained and grown ITF accounts for your kids into adulthood. 👏

  • Reply
    John
    April 7, 2022 at 6:51 am

    Thank you Chrissy and Max for your valuable feedback two are working full time jobs and have good salaries our third is still in University and so taking gains with him is a good option.

    With the two older children working both have RRSP room so while transferring to RRSP will initiate CG the tax refund will most likely help lessen the impact in that year for them.

    For TFSA`s both have significant room and so can move some of the In-trust money into the TFSA still debating at one time or over a few years.

    Chrissy thanks for the nice words I was 35 when we had our first child and the one thing I wanted to avoid was getting into retirement and feeling the need to help them financially and maybe impacting our retirement plans.
    In addition if they did not go to University the in trust funds would provide some help.

    We also used a Family RESP (self directed by me) to support some of the funding of all three went to University. In 2023 we will have fully funded all three for a total of 16 years in University with 14 years of that was living away from home and we covered those costs as well.

    Two have graduated University from 6 years and 5 year programs without any debt and our third will have completed 5 years next year and will also graduate without any debts.

    Make a plan invest every month in growth investments and stay the course our in trust funds started at $50 a month for each child for several years before increasing to $100 a month until the last investment.

    We stuck to the plan we set over 20 years ago and this included my wife stopping work for 14 years to support the kids at home every day which has been the most valuable investment.

    In hindsight we were maybe too giving with our plans to support them but we have three great Adults who are very appreciative of the start in life they have been given by mom and dad and we have no stress about supporting them as we plan for our retirement.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 7, 2022 at 8:37 pm

      Hi John—we are 7-10 years away from where you are, so it’s helpful to hear of a real-life example of these accounts in use! Your entire family is in a very stable and successful place. Well done to all of you!

      I’m impressed with how much you were able to fully cover with your family RESP. Wow, that’s a lot of years of schooling + living costs! We also have a family RESP for our boys and are hopeful that, like you, we’ll be able to cover all their costs. I know this isn’t how everyone does it, but it feels right for us.

      It’s lovely to hear that your wife was able to be home with your children for so many years. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since our first was born, and I agree that it’s such a worthwhile, valuable investment—not just for the kids, but for the whole family.

      You have clearly done a good job of teaching your kids about gratitude and the value of money. My kids are only 14 and 16, and they so far seem to be on the right track. I hope one day we’ll have similar success stories to share about them.

      Congratulations again on raising such responsible, successful and respectful kids!

  • Reply
    John
    April 8, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    Chrissy

    Thanks so much and I am sure you will be successful just reading your blog you have a good handle on the financial plan and the discipline to follow the plans you have created.

    On the RESP it was a big help and while it did help with a lot of the costs we had to supplement that with other savings for us it ranged from $14k to $18k per year per child over this 16 years.

    Our eldest who is now a Nurse is the one that lived at home for 2 years for her final 2 years but we also purchased her a used car for that purpose.

    Not sure if its allowed but many colleagues with younger children have asked me so many times about the cost of University in Canada and so to calibrate them so they see its not just me talking I have shared this link from Knowledge First Financial Inc – https://media.knowledgefirstfinancial.ca/Guide-to-Education-Costs-in-Canada-to-2037.pdf

    Thanks again

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      April 10, 2022 at 10:30 pm

      Hi John—thanks for this added info, including the helpful PDF. I like how they show the estimated cost of education through the years. It’s not cheap, but it’s an absolute steal when compared to tuition rates in the US!

  • Reply
    Martin
    May 2, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    Hi everyone, two questions on this topic I hope someone can please help me with:

    1. I just sold all of my HXDM in my taxable account to harvest a loss. I now realize I had purchased some HXDM in my daughter’s Informal Trust account in the 30 days prior and still hold it there. Do I now need to sell the HXDM position in the informal trust also to avoid a superficial loss?

    2. I’m holding some of the same Horizon ETFS (e.g. HXS, HXDM) in my taxable account and in my daughter’s informal trust. Is the ACB of each ETF getting calculated together across the two accounts or are they separate? I know my daughter should be the one responsible for the capital gains taxes when she turns 18, but I’m still confused as to whether these gains will be calculated purely from the shares in the informal trust or all lumped together with the shares I own in my taxable account.
    Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      May 2, 2022 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Martin—hmmm, these are very good questions, but they’re unfortunately above my pay grade! I wish I could help you out, but I’m not knowledgeable enough about CRA’s stance on attribution rules when it comes to capital losses. I would hate to share my uneducated opinion and lead you astray.

      Normally, I would suggest that you call CRA to get clarification, but most agents aren’t that knowledgeable about informal trusts, so they’ll likely give you incorrect or incomplete info.

      It would probably be best to ask an accountant who’s experienced with informal trusts. Some accountants offer free one-time consultations, so you may be able to get some free help that way. If not, it’s probably worth it to pay for a 30-60 minute consult.

      You may also want to consider posting your question in some online forums (e.g. Red Flag Deals, Personal Finance Canada on Reddit) or Facebook groups. I wouldn’t rely on answers from these sources, but they could help you find other reliable sources of info.

      Hopefully, one of my other readers may be able to help you out. It seems some of them are quite experienced with informal trusts, so they may have an answer for you!

      However you get your answers, I would love it if you could come back to update us!

    • Reply
      Max
      May 3, 2022 at 12:15 pm

      According to CRA, the superficial loss rule applies to “affiliated” persons. You can find the definition of “affiliated persons” in section 251.1(1) of the income tax act. It’s interesting to note that your kids are not considered to be affiliated with you for income tax purposes, but beneficiaries of trusts you set up may be. Subsection 251.1(1) (g) of the act states that an affiliated person includes:

      (g) a person and a trust, if the person
      (i) is a majority-interest beneficiary of the trust, or
      (ii) would, if this subsection were read without reference to this paragraph, be affiliated with a majority-interest beneficiary of the trust

      If (and that’s a big if), an ITF account is considered to be a trust, then (i) may apply if you treat the ITF as if it was still your money (which you shouldn’t), (ii) shouldn’t apply since your daughter is not affiliated with you for tax purposes.

      Unfortunately CRA doesn’t say much about ITF accounts and leaves a lot of room for guessing.
      In my case, to prevent any misunderstandings, I have drafted documents that clearly define the parties and the intent of the ITFs I have set up for my grandkids, e.g. to make clear that I have no interest in the funds in the ITF, I have stated “The Contributor understands that these funds are gifted irrevocably and that the balance in the Informal Trust Account, including accumulated gains, belongs irrevocably to the Beneficiary”

      On your second question, the ACB should be tracked for each individual separately. If you personally hold the same investment in more than one account, then you should track the ACB combined. If a superficial loss occurs, then that amount would be added to the ACB of the affiliated person.

      These are just my interpretations and opinions, please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer or tax expert and what I have said above is just my interpretation.

      • Chrissy
        May 3, 2022 at 8:02 pm

        You’re the best, Max! (I was hoping you would have some insights to share.) Thank you so much for chiming in and sharing so much detailed information. I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Martin
    May 10, 2022 at 1:18 pm

    Thank you, Max. Really appreciate your insight. I’ll see at tax time if this causes me any headaches, but I’m feeling a little better about it after reading your response. Thanks a bunch.

  • Reply
    Kishor
    January 10, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    Wow. First time I stumbled upon your blog. Great info to start my research on ITF. Thank you so much.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 12, 2023 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Kishor—thank you for the kind words! I hope the ITF post is helpful to you. I tried to make it as comprehensive and useful as possible. 👍

  • Reply
    Elsie
    February 10, 2023 at 10:03 am

    I am in the process of handing over the shares held in an informal trust account with ITrade at ScotiaBank to my nephew, the beneficiary of the informal trust account. He has both a cash account and TFSA with ITrade. ITrade has given me ‘SIt508 Gifting Securities Between Accounts’ forms to complete for the transfer. 1st Question: Is this the correct way to transfer the funds? 2nd Question: can these funds be transferred directory to his TFSA? Thanks for your help.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 10, 2023 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Elsie—what a wonderful aunt you are! I’ll answer your questions to the best of my knowledge. However, keep in mind that I’ve not yet reached this point with my kids’ accounts, so I don’t have firsthand experience.

      1) When I used to hold our investments at Questrade, they required that I write a letter of direction to “gift” securities between my husband’s non-registered (aka cash) account and mine.

      This form that iTrade is asking you to fill out is probably the same thing, but in a form instead of a letter. Therefore, I believe it’s the correct way to do this ITF transfer at iTrade.

      2) I’m not sure if you can transfer directly from an ITF to a TFSA. That’s because only the account holder can contribute to their own TFSA.

      Therefore, my guess is you’ll first need to transfer the investments in the ITF to your nephew’s cash account. Then he can transfer from that account to his TFSA.

      If I was in your position, I would feel comfortable trusting iTrade’s instructions. I’m quite sure they wouldn’t allow you to transfer directly into the TFSA if it would be against CRA’s attribution rules!

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. I hope everything goes smoothly with the transfer. 🤞

    • Reply
      Max
      February 11, 2023 at 3:39 pm

      I’m a bit surprised that iTrade is giving you the “Gifting of Securities” form for this. You are not really gifting anything at this point, your nephew is already the owner of these fund, and you are just holding them in trust for him. In my opinion, you have to dissolve the trust so that your nephew gains control of the (his) funds. If you just transfer the funds to your nephew, which you are allowed to do as a trustee, you will still be the holder of an ITF account with zero dollars in it. Some time ago, I was told that the trustee and beneficiary would have to do this in person at the bank, but that may have changed by now.
      I sometimes find that replies from customer service representatives don’t make much sense and if you ask again or question their reply, you get a different answer from another representative.
      Keep in mind also, that if you are able to transfer the funds directly into your nephews TFSA, the securities will be deemed sold for tax purposes and your nephew will have to declare any potential capital gains on his tax return.

      • Chrissy
        February 11, 2023 at 7:47 pm

        Hi Max—thanks, as always, for adding your thoughtful input. Your reminder about declaring the capital gains. I’d considered mentioning that in my reply, but (perhaps wrongly) assumed that Elsie already knew that. In hindsight, it would have been better to mention it anyway, just in case. Thanks for catching that!

        You’re likely right about the gifting. I suspect there’s no set/correct way to handle ITFs at any brokerage and that it likely depends which staff member you happen to speak with on any given day (as you’ve experienced)!

  • Reply
    Elsie
    February 11, 2023 at 6:40 am

    Chrissy thank you so much for this.

  • Reply
    Elsie
    February 11, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks Max for your help I’ll pursue this further with ITrade. Once I get this done I will report back to the blog as I think the information may be of use to someone else.

    • Reply
      Max
      February 11, 2023 at 5:40 pm

      That’s great Elsie, I’m looking forward to hear about your outcome. I have to do this in a few years and your experience will make it easier for me when it’s my turn. It’s too bad that there are no clear rules for ITF accounts, CRA and brokerages kind of leave us hang in the clouds.

      • Chrissy
        February 11, 2023 at 7:53 pm

        Hi again Max—I agree that CRA doesn’t make the rules clear. I’m guessing it’s because very few Canadians are aware of or have the extra money to use informal trusts. It’s probably rare for CRA to get queries about these accounts, so their agents don’t get much or any training on how to deal with them. I guess you could say we’re on the bleeding edge of investing!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 11, 2023 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Elsie—that’s very kind of you to offer to report back! When you do, I’ll add your comment directly to my post so that it’s easy for readers to find the info. Like Max, I’ll also have to do this in a few years, so will add my experience then as well.

  • Reply
    Randy
    June 6, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    Hi all,
    Are you aware ,and could you comment ,that most major Canadian banks I have contacted have recently stopped offering informal trust accounts . We have several existing ,but no new ones offered at CIBC, Scotiabank,BMO or RBC

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 8, 2023 at 10:40 pm

      Hi Randy—thanks for letting me know about this. I haven’t heard anything about banks no longer offering informal trusts and couldn’t find any info when I Googled it.

      I’ll try to ask Ed about it and will let you know if he has any info to share. I really hope this isn’t the end of informal trusts. 🙁

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 15, 2023 at 9:31 pm

      Hello again Randy—I have a reply from Ed:

      “I have not heard anything about this. Our custodians are still opening new ITF accounts. Most ITFs only hold a couple of thousand dollars, so they are probably not profitable. I can understand the banks not wanting to do them.

      Then there is the complexity of the SIN#s, since it should be the kid’s SIN# if they are investing for capital gains, but in the parents SIN# if they are investing for interest or dividends. They get this wrong a lot and must get a lot of calls or even CRA audits.”

      I hope this info is helpful to you.

  • Reply
    Tucker
    November 1, 2023 at 7:08 am

    This was SUPER informative and well researched! Thank you for putting this all together as I have always wondered what we would do if we received an inheritance and wanted to put money away for our minor children. I think I may hire a professional if we went this route but it’s great that you have options to DIY as well.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 2, 2023 at 10:20 pm

      Hi Tucker—I’m happy to hear this post was helpful to you! An informal trust would be an ideal place to invest an inheritance. Your kids are very fortunate that you’re money-savvy and aware of the options available to them. Thanks so much for stopping by again and for the kind words. 🙂

  • Reply
    Doug Robertson
    November 1, 2023 at 2:24 pm

    Great post Chrissy, thanks for sharing! Very informative and it was great to get Ed’s perspective as well.

    I really enjoy your website. All the best!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 2, 2023 at 10:24 pm

      Hi Doug—I agree and think it’s always great to get Ed’s perspective. 😉 Thanks so much for checking out my blog. I just took a peek at yours too—congrats on reaching FI two years ago! 🎉

  • Reply
    John
    November 3, 2023 at 9:20 am

    This is very helpful Thank you

    I have three Self directed informal trust accounts with TD Investing setup in the 1990`s

    I have found that the people you deal with on the phone or in the branch really do not understand them so you do need to be clear on what you want and how they work.

    Need to make sure the account setup so that you are the primary and the benefactor is named so (John In trust for Chrissy) and both SIN numbers need to be on record of the account this is very important.

    All T3/T5 etc. will come to the Trustee (John) and then as the kids get older you need to deal with the changing tax implications

    This year I transferred the first one of these trusts to our middle child

    first TD wanted to sell all the investments and send over cash which would have generated a large capital gains and so I told them this was not needed and actually had to give them an article explaining the option.

    Our daughter had her own TD trading account so it was a simple transfer in kind of the assets from the In trust account to her trading account and as the funds were her by name should not have any tax consequences until she decided to sell them.

    Moving them to a TFSA or RRSP account would have technically been a sale even if moved in Kind so this is why it was important to move to a non-registered trading account.

    The In trust account was closed and removed from my trading account so I no longer see this in my list of accounts

    Now as TD have already messed up basic investment things in the past, and so I have my fingers crossed we will not see any issues at tax time in January. 🙂

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 6, 2023 at 12:14 pm

      Hello John—this is all very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience, especially since you’ve gone through the process of transferring the account to your child. It’s informative to hear how it’s worked out.

      I’m shocked (but also not really 🙄) that different people at TD have given you different info and that they’re not consistent with their messaging and level of knowledge. How frustrating!

      Based on my understanding, it sounds like you did everything correctly and that there should be no immediate tax consequences for your daughter. Fingers crossed that this will be the case!

      I appreciate your detailed and helpful comment. Thanks for sharing with me and my readers. 🙂

  • Reply
    Randy
    November 16, 2023 at 6:11 pm

    Just received letter from CIBC advising ALL ITF’s will be converted to individual accounts in name of trustee only,removing wording ” in trust for” ,and removing beneficiary name,and ITF’s no longer offered. Decisions re accounts must be made by Dec 1 ,2 weeks hence. With 6 weeks remaining in tax year,to say I’m angry is an understatement.There are some people who are going to have serious tax implications IMHO.

    • Reply
      Max
      November 16, 2023 at 8:38 pm

      Wow, I never thought that would happen. I wonder if that’s even legal, considering the short notice.
      But this just shows that one should periodically crystallize capital gains early on in the beneficiary’s life so that there is never a high tax liability for anyone.

      • Chrissy
        November 16, 2023 at 10:10 pm

        Hi Max—thanks for continuing to engage in the comments here. You always share such valuable knowledge!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 16, 2023 at 10:08 pm

      Hi Randy—wow, thanks for sharing this. I’m angry on your behalf! I can’t believe CIBC gave so little notice AND that they left it so close to the end of the year. I agree with Max and wonder if it’s even legal to give such short notice.

      To say the least, it’s utterly unfair and unjust. I hope it’s not a harbinger for more such ITF closures to come. I’m sorry you’re facing this. However, I’m hopeful, as Max mentioned, that you’d been crystallizing the gains every once in a while. That would minimize the tax consequences in this situation.

      I’m very grateful to you for letting me know about this change. I’ll share an update in the post so that other readers are aware of this risk. 🙁

      • Max
        November 16, 2023 at 10:59 pm

        Hi Chrissy, I also wonder if CIBC can legally transfer the funds to the trustee since the beneficiary is the legal owner of the funds (that’s the whole idea of a trust). And since the beneficiary is most likely a minor, he/she can’t even open a bank account for the funds to be deposited in. As I understand it, all children’s bank savings accounts are actually ITF accounts that were opened by a person who has reached the age of majority. Is CIBC closing all the kid’s bank accounts too? If CIBC can legally follow through with this, then that would actually mean that an ITF is not a legally binding contract and the trustee could use the funds as he pleases – I don’t like that idea!

      • Chrissy
        November 18, 2023 at 11:02 pm

        Hi Max—those are all excellent and very interesting points. You’re right that the funds are legally the property of the beneficiary. Technically, no one is supposed to use the funds except for the beneficiary, so you’re right that what CIBC is proposing may not be legal. I didn’t know that children’s bank accounts are actually ITFs. CIBC may be opening a Pandora’s box here! 🤔

      • Randy
        November 17, 2023 at 10:45 am

        Their letter indicates that other Canadian banks are discontinuing ITF’s as well. I indicated in an earlier post in June I was unable to open a new one at any major bank .Can anyone comment on who is still offering this product. It appears this is in response to CRA announcement late Oct to come in effect on Dec 30,requiring Trust returns be filed every year, and detailed records of the contributors ? Legislation appears to exempt trusts with less than $50,000 ,but banks are throwing the baby out with the bathwater……..

      • Chrissy
        November 18, 2023 at 10:58 pm

        Hi Randy—this is really unfortunate news. I really hope that CIBC is wrong about other banks discontinuing ITFs as well. As far as I know, Questrade still offers them. My custodian is Fidelity Clearing Canada, and they’re also still offering them.

        I’ll keep my fingers crossed that ITFs will still be available at some institutions. I hope others reply to share info about their banks and brokerages. It would be nice to have more data points so we can keep an eye on the situation.

      • Randy
        November 17, 2023 at 10:57 am

        To be fair ,they outline 4 options.
        1. Default if no response by DEC 1.Remove all reference of in trust and convert to regular investment account in contributor’s name and SIN.
        2.Open a Formal Trust Account and transfer assets.(yeah right,in 2 weeks)
        3.Transfer assets to another institution’s ITF in beneficiaries’ name .( yeah right,no one is offering same)
        4. Close account and remove assets.

  • Reply
    Randy
    November 17, 2023 at 10:56 am

    To be fair ,they outline 4 options.
    1. Default if no response by DEC 1.Remove all reference of in trust and convert to regular investment account in contributor’s name and SIN.
    2.Open a Formal Trust Account and transfer assets.(yeah right,in 2 weeks)
    3.Transfer assets to another institution’s ITF in beneficiaries’ name .( yeah right,no one is offering same)
    4. Close account and remove assets.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 18, 2023 at 10:46 pm

      Hi Randy—it’s very kind of you to share the details. All the options are either not viable/realistic or will create potential tax consequences for some people.

      Again, it’s very unfair and underhanded for CIBC to do this. I’m very disappointed. I hope you’ll be able to come out of this without too much lost to taxes.

  • Reply
    Martin
    November 18, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you all for this info. My ITF is with Questrade and I haven’t heard anything, but that could be coming. Let me ask this question. If I choose to crystallize some gains in the ITF account, does that mean I have to file a tax return for my 11 year old?

  • Reply
    Max
    November 18, 2023 at 7:08 pm

    I don’t think you actually have to file a tax return if there is no tax payable but I highly recommend you do so that CRA has a record of what has transpired and so they can see how you report ITF capital gains and also that you are a honest person and are not hiding anything. This could be helpful in case there is a dispute in the future. It’s not a big deal to file a tax return if there is only a capital gain (or loss) to report.

  • Reply
    Martin
    November 18, 2023 at 8:02 pm

    Okay. I will do that then. Appreciate your help. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 18, 2023 at 10:49 pm

      Hi Martin—I echo what Max has shared. (As usual, thank you so much for chiming in with your wise advice and experience, Max!) I’ve filed returns twice for my kids, and both times, it was very straightforward and easy.

      It felt good to file them even if there were no taxes owing. For me, it was reassuring to get the NOAs back in the mail. They’re black and white proof of CRA acknowledging the capital gains and not assessing any taxes.

  • Reply
    Elsie
    November 19, 2023 at 6:14 am

    I’m with Scotia ITrade and I’ve heard nothing about this from them.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 19, 2023 at 8:43 am

      Hi Elsie—our informal trusts used to be at iTrade as well. This is good to hear. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Randy
      November 19, 2023 at 10:31 am

      Scotia Itrade no longer offers ITF’s…..Good luck to all

    • Reply
      Max
      November 19, 2023 at 11:03 am

      I have my accounts with Scotia iTrade also and, so far, I have not received any official notification either. However, I have noticed that they don’t list the Informal Trust Application form in their forms library anymore. I wonder what that means? I don’t want to stir the pot more, so I just wait and see what happens next rather than inquire with them.

      • Chrissy
        November 19, 2023 at 10:11 pm

        Hi Elsie, Max and Randy—I wonder if iTrade (and other banks/brokerages) will allow existing informal trusts to remain but refuse new applications? This still isn’t ideal, but it would certainly be a better solution that what CIBC has done. I agree with you Max—it’s not worth inquiring!

  • Reply
    Martin
    November 20, 2023 at 1:42 pm

    Here’s another question and I apologize if it has come up already. I asked customer service at Questrade whether a tax slip showing capital gains from my ITF account would be issued in my name or my daughter’s. They answered it would be in my name as the account holder. I then asked if a slip issued in my name could be declared in my daughter’s tax return. He answered, no. Can anyone chime in to confirm or refute this? I always find that customer service is pretty clueless when it comes to this account, but I’m also suspecting, as Ed Remple has mentioned before, that many institutions don’t set ITFs up properly and it might well be the case here. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Max
      November 20, 2023 at 3:11 pm

      The slips I get from Scotia Bank are issued as “my name ITF beneficiary’s name”. I don’t know what Questrade does.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 21, 2023 at 10:46 pm

      Hi Martin—we previously held informal trusts at Questrade. I checked our old tax slips, account statements, and trading summaries, and everything is under my SIN with my husband and my name and no mention of the beneficiary or that the account is an ITF. (Note: we left Questrade in 2018, so things may be different now.)

      However, the good news is we filed 2018 tax returns for our kids to report their capital gains… and everything went through as it should have! (Though I’m not sure if CRA gave us any headaches over the filings as Ed’s tax filing expert handled it all for us.) In the end, we got their NOAs and there were no taxes owing for either child.

      Not a solid answer, I’m afraid, but that’s my experience with Questrade!

  • Reply
    Martin
    November 20, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you, Max. I wish they could give me a straight answer. I plan to make a small sale before year end as a test. I’ll report back when I get the slip so anyone else using Questrade knows what to expect. Thanks again.

  • Reply
    John
    November 21, 2023 at 9:06 am

    I have been on this journey longer than most i believe, we set the first In trust account up 28 years ago and we had three in total these were with TD investments.

    They were setup correctly in that both sin numbers are reported but the statements are to me with In Trust (Childs Name).

    Our rationale was back then was to have an account for each child that we could invest in and then when they were 18 or older hopefully hand over the account with investments that they could use this as a good start on their journey.

    We felt this was better than not to plan and then try to help them financially not knowing if we could afford to in the future we also wanted to protect if one of them or all of them did not go to University.

    We also set up a Family RESP so we could help them with education costs if needed and as all three went onto University for a combined total of 17 years it was needed so we fully funded as well with RESP and other funds.

    So all three graduated without any debts from University and with a bonus of an In Trust account

    Today personally i would not setup an In-Trust account there are really no benefits apart from locking in its their money (Investments) that has to be given to them directly

    Better off assuming you can be disciplined enough to setup a separate investment account for each child and then you put money in to it on a regular basis and invest in a growth EFT and leave it alone and later you can sell and gift them money if you feel so inclined or not but an easier choice and you have full control and no restrictions what you do with the account or money.

    I complete the tax return filing for everyone in the family and have for many years and have done them electronically for the last 10 years.

    As for taxes not sure what i have done is 100% correct but as the In Trust subscriber the T3 & T4`s are tied to my Sin number and so until 18 i have claimed them on my tax return. After 18 I have had the beneficiary claim then on their tax return my oldest is now 29

    I have been audited a few times over the years but never for the In Trust accounts only typically when claiming the latest tax scheme (Home reno etc.) that i have had to provide supporting information.

    As mentioned previously i have transferred one of the In Trust accounts in kind in 2023 to my daughter to her investment account and apart form having to tell TD Investing what to do it went well.

    I will find out in 2024 if there is a problem when i do the taxes but i do not expect any.

    TD did recently contact me and ask me for up to date details on the two children (now Adults) that still have In Trust accounts.

    Hope this has been helpful

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 21, 2023 at 10:53 pm

      Hi John—your long-term experience with informal trusts is invaluable. Thank you for taking the time to share such an incredible amount of detail and advice.

      I would argue that there is still a huge benefit to be had with these accounts in that the capital gains can be crystallized regularly so as to make the growth tax-free. Over 18-19 years, it could be a decent amount of growth, so I personally think it’s still worth opening an informal trust.

      However, you make good points about the disadvantages. Anyone who’s considering an informal trust should seriously consider all the pros and cons before they make a decision. For many, it may not be worth the hassles and uncertainty.

      I would love an update once you file your and your daughter’s taxes for 2023! It’ll be great to have more info on the process when an informal trust is transferred and closed.

  • Reply
    Elsie
    November 21, 2023 at 10:30 am

    Hi John thanks for this. Can you elaborate a bit on the process for transferring the funds to the beneficiary. Thanks

  • Reply
    John
    November 21, 2023 at 10:49 am

    Yes

    We are with TD and they have no clue to be honest but after some research i found the best way is to do the following and the TD agreed it sounded correct.

    The beneficiary needs to have a regular investment account (Non Registered) setup with the same institution ( I assume it can be done to a different Institution but maybe not as straight forward)

    The reason for this is if you transfer directly from the In Trust account to a (Registered) TFSA or RRSP then they will be deemed to be sold at current market value and so capital gains or Interest will be due.

    Both parties will need to be present and then you instruct the institution to transfer in kind from the In Trust account to the beneficiary’s investment account.

    Once this is done you leave instructions to close the In Trust account and its closed

    As mentioned will find out in 2024 if any major issues from CRA but we will see 🙂

    This is one reference from Franklin Templeton

    Seamless Transfer to the Beneficiary
    Once the beneficiary is of age, any request they make results in a non-taxable transfer into a new account in the beneficiary’s name.

    https://www.franklintempleton.ca/en-ca/resources/itf-policy

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 21, 2023 at 10:55 pm

      Thanks again for being so helpful, John! Very kind of you. 💗

  • Reply
    Elsie
    November 21, 2023 at 11:36 am

    Thank you so much for this John it’s very helpful.

  • Reply
    Martin
    November 22, 2023 at 3:54 am

    Thank you Chrissy and everyone else. As I mentioned, I’ll make a small sale before year end, report it under my daughter’s name and report back after tax time. I’m not impressed with how Questrade handles these accounts. Take care.

  • Reply
    Ritchie
    November 23, 2023 at 9:50 am

    Thanks so much for the article – it is obvious you and Ed put in considerable work. Well done.

    I am having a challenge finding a financial institution that still does “Informal Trusts”. I opened one a few years ago for my granddaughter (with RBC) and I would like to open one for my grandson. The RBC has informed me that “they no longer open Informal Trusts”. I asked about closing the existing account/moving it elsewhere and no response. I have gone to National Bank (this was after them agreeing to a meeting downtown and me paying for parking ) – advised to phone a 1-800 number and told we haven’t done them since 2019, Scotia Wealth – we don’t do them , haven’t since 2019 and BMO – I wrote an email to them about a month ago and no response.

    The comment made by several people is the front line staff do not understand Informal Trusts resonates.

    If you can shed any light on opening an account that would be great. We are currently looking at non-registered accounts with Wealthsimple and paying the tax on dividends and capital gains when the time comes. I haven’t looked at “gifting” yet but plan to look into that. This is all about teaching young adults to save and invest in shares. Pure and simple but I seem to be frustrated every step of the way!

    Thank you in advance for allowing me to vent and for the fine work on this article.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 26, 2023 at 8:29 pm

      Hi Ritchie—I know how frustrating it was for me to find info on informal trusts, so I’m happy to hear this post was helpful. (And yes, Ed was a huge help!)

      Based on the many comments here, it appears the door is closing on new informal trusts at the big banks. Existing ones still seem to be okay (except at CIBC). But it’s only getting harder to open new informal trusts at most banks now. I’m frustrated on your behalf that National Bank asked you to come in for an in-person appointment downtown just to tell you they can’t help you. What kind of service is that?!

      As far as I can tell, Questrade is still opening informal trusts. However, as you’ve probably read in the comments, their statements and other records don’t make it clear that the account is an informal trust. This may or may not be an issue, but it can be anxiety-provoking to not have clear documentation.

      The next-best solution of non-registered accounts in your name and taxed to you, then gifting the investments later is likely the most workable option at this point. I wish I could provide more definitive, positive answers for you, but it seems we’re in a messy, uncertain time with these accounts right now.

      Feel free to continue commenting here anytime you need to rant or ask if anyone else has more info. This comment section may the best resource right now for current, on-the-ground info about informal trusts (thanks to you and all the other kind people who have shared their experiences here)!

  • Reply
    Ritchie
    November 27, 2023 at 3:53 am

    Thank you very much for your response and comments Chrissy. It confirms what I suspected and rather than spend more time – to no end – I will pursue the non-registered route.
    Just an FYI – I got about half way through the application process with Questrade and we (Questrade and I) finally figured out you could set up a trust account if you were a parent – not a grandparent.
    Thanks again and I enjoy the writing and information you provide.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      December 3, 2023 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Ritchie—I think that’s a fair decision, given all the unknowns (and knowns). Thanks for sharing your experience with Questrade as a grandparent. I find it odd that only parents can set up informal trusts, but at least you and Questrade figured it out!

  • Reply
    DB
    January 4, 2024 at 5:35 am

    Fantastic post! This is the most comprehensive and authoritative resource I’ve found on this topic to date, and I’ve read a lot of them.

    One note on doing this at Questrade. At least last I tried, they won’t allow ANY withdrawals from an IFT account before age of majority. Even if the trustee instructs them and states the funds are to be used to the benefit of the beneficiary. I tried to escalate and they wouldn’t back down.

    So I’d suggest avoiding Questrade for these accounts if at all possible.

    If anyone has been able to get around this or transfer the account out I’d love to hear more details.

    Also looking forward to future clarity on meeting the new trust reporting requirements. From what the government has provided to date seems to me this is likely a bare trust and anything >$50K will require the T3 and Schedule 15.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 7, 2024 at 7:18 pm

      Hi DB—it’s very kind of you to share your experience with Questrade. I’ve always been a huge Questrade fan, and used to hold my kids’ informal trusts there. But, quite frankly, I’m horrified by the news you’ve shared.

      I’m pretty sure they can’t stop you if you try to transfer to a custodian that’s more flexible, so that’s a possible solution. However, based on all the comments from other readers, most banks are no longer offering ITFs, so it may be tough finding another institution to transfer your ITF to. 🙁

      I don’t have any official news to share about the new trust reporting requirements, but will update the post soon with what I do know. Sadly, it looks like it’s only going to get more complicated to hold ITFs at this point.

  • Reply
    Sam
    January 14, 2024 at 7:24 pm

    Not sure if TD Bank still sets up informal trusts anymore but if they do, ask lots of questions first before doing any paperwork. Apparently informal trusts needs to be set up a small business account (ya go figure!) due to the system’s limitations (their words not mine). Only a Small Business Account staff can set up the account. When investments are purchased, appt with Personal Banker is needed because the Small Business Account doesn’t have the license to sell investments. Later, if there are issues with the account, you go to the personal banker and they refer you to the Small Business Account staff (because it is Not a personal account) and the Small Business Account staff refers you back to the personal banker (because it is related to investments).

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 21, 2024 at 10:35 pm

      Hi there Sam—apologies for my delayed reply. Thank you for sharing your experience with TD. It’s unbelievable all the hoops they make you jump through. And then they send you in circles between their departments?! Ugh, that sounds like a nightmare! Based on what you’ve shared, I would stay far away from TD (if they’re even still opening up informal trusts). Thanks again for taking the time to let us know.

  • Reply
    Ed Middleton
    January 17, 2024 at 10:49 am

    Fantastic post and discussion. Can you set up an informal trust for an adult? The reason I ask is that my mom wants to disperse some of her retirement holdings to us 3 adult kids. My brother has a bad spending problem so I’m looking into whether she could set up a trust in his name that allows the trustee to disperse funds to him on an annual basis based on RRIF minimum withdrawal rates. Basically setting up an RRIF for him with limits on withdrawals. Would that make sense or would a formal trust be needed? FYI, we are talking $50 to $75k.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 21, 2024 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Ed—I’m happy to hear this post (and the amazing comments from other readers) is helpful! I don’t know if it’s possible to set up an informal trust for an adult, but I do know you can keep one open indefinitely, even after a child reaches the age of majority. So there’s a decent chance that the answer is yes. I think you’d need to ask the brokerage/custodian you’ll open the account with and see what they say. (That is, if you can even find an institution that’s still opening new informal trusts. 😕)

      Unfortunately, I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you if an informal trust will serve the purpose you’re aiming for. However, I believe the trustee needs to sign off on all withdrawals, even once the beneficiary is of legal age. So there is some level of control there. You could look into a formal trust, but the costs to set up and maintain it will likely not be worth it.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. I feel for your family and hope you and your mom will be able to find a workable solution.

  • Reply
    DB
    February 2, 2024 at 9:52 am

    An update on Questrade. I was able to transfer my account out in full, to a new informal trust account at National Bank Direct Brokerage. The direct brokerage (NBDB) still allows the opening of these accounts.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 13, 2024 at 7:42 pm

      Hi DB—very kind of you to share this info. Great to know there’s at least one institution that’s still opening informal trusts. I hope Questrade didn’t make it too difficult or costly for you to transfer out.

  • Reply
    STS
    February 6, 2024 at 10:18 am

    In terms of the new CRA reporting, do we need to set up a CRA Trust Account number? If so, what type of trust do we set up? A bare trust doesn’t seem to meet the definition of how we use the informal trust – specifically, as a trustee for my young teenagers I actually and actively make investment decisions on their behalf (of course, I include them in those discussions); however, within a bare trust the trustee really isn’t involved in any decisions and if they are it’s only at the direction of the beneficiary. So again, do we need a CRA Trust Account Number and if so, what type of trust do we use?

    I use Interactive Brokers and they continue to allow informal trusts.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 13, 2024 at 7:46 pm

      Hi STS—apologies for my delayed reply. I’m unfortunately not knowledgeable enough to answer your questions at this time. I suspect that even tax experts will have difficultly advising people on how and what to file in 2024! If I hear anything about this, I’ll be sure to report back here. Thanks for the excellent question and for letting us know that Interactive Brokers still allows informal trusts.

    • Reply
      DB
      February 14, 2024 at 2:30 am

      There’s some discussion on this on r/cantax on Reddit where the argument has been made that these are express trusts. I at least am persuaded it’s an express trust.

      Note that as long as there are no distributions, capital gains, benefits paid, etc.,; the value is under 50K; and, it’s all in allowable instruments no return is required. Though I guess one could just opt to do it anyway to be safe.

      • Chrissy
        February 25, 2024 at 2:45 pm

        Hi DB—thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. Until we get more clarity from CRA, it’s helpful to gather different data points and interpretations.

        What you’ve shared here lines up with what I’ve learned/heard. For now, I think the most important factor is to keep the account under $50k. That will help to avoid having to file a return (which invites all kinds of other headaches).

  • Reply
    Martin
    March 17, 2024 at 12:10 pm

    Hi everyone, it’s tax season and I need help! The back story is that I have an informal trust account at Questrade for my daughter. I only have Horizons ETFs in it so it has never generated a t-slip because those ETFs don’t make any distributions. In 2023, as a test, I made a small sale which generated a small capital gain. I have now received the T5008 slip. I only lists my name and my SIN. There is no mention that it is an informal trust, or my daughter’s name or her SIN. I contacted the CRA. They told me that if only my name shows up on the slip, it has to be reported on my tax return and I pay the taxes. Questrade also says I’m responsible for declaring the capital gain and paying the taxes. I’m not ready to take their word for it. If they are correct, there is really no advantage that I know of to even open this type of account.
    My questions are as follows:
    Can I declare the capital gain on my daughter’s tax return if her name & SIN do not appear on the T5008? Chrissy, I believe you have done this in the past.
    The tax software I use does have options for shared accounts where you can assign a certain percentage of income to yourself and another percentage to another person. Should I be going this route, reporting the gain on my return, characterizing the account as shared and assigning 100% of the capital gain to my daughter?
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all.

    • Reply
      DB
      March 21, 2024 at 5:36 am

      Having gone down the rabbit hole on this in the past few months I’ve learned there are a few complicated dimensions here.

      First, what is the source of the funds? That is going to determine whether the income is attributed to whoever provided her with the funds, or your daughter. In almost all cases (mostly aside from inheritance, insurance proceeds, child tax benefit funds, and I suppose perhaps her own employment income), income is attributed to the contributor/gifter. Capital gains will be attributed to her in any case. You can declare those on her return instead of yours despite the T5008. You may get an inquiry from the T1 Matching Program or someone else at CRA about the missing T5008 on your return, and then will have to provide documentation showing why this was correct.

      Second, this is technically a trust. Perhaps a bare trust, perhaps an express trust. So at the very least you need to file the T3 trust return any year there is a capital gain from sale or a distribution, or if the value of the account is over $50K, or if it doesn’t otherwise qualify as a listed trust (see the CRA’s FAQ on the new reporting rules for trust for info on that).

      If it’s a bare trust, you don’t need to account for the capital gains, etc. on there, it goes on the beneficiary’s return. However if it’s an express trust, then there are a lot of additional schedules to account for the capital gains, distribution to beneficiaries, tax payable, etc.—like a whole additional T1 almost. I haven’t found a clear answer on this, but there are a lot of accountant blogs using ITFs as an example of a bare trust so I am going to treat it that way and put it all on the beneficiary’s return. But my ITFs have only child benefit funds in them which makes it less risky I think as they are excluded from the s. 75(2) issue I am about to mention and have other legal carve-outs around them.

      Third, if you are the settlor of the trust (the party who contributed the funds) and you are the trustee managing it as well, which it sounds like you are, section 72(5) if the Income Tax Act can result in all income and capital gains being attributed back to you. Depending on the source (i.e. not insurance, inheritance, child benefit) and amount of the funds you may wish to get some professional advice from a tax lawyer with trust experience to make sure you don’t run afoul of this. Other advice I’ve seen is having your spouse be the trustee and you the contributor or vice versa but sounds like it’s too late for that. If it is a bare trust this may not matter but unclear to me if it is or not.

      I’m also assuming your daughter is under the age of majority, if not then this is a different situation.

      • Martin
        March 21, 2024 at 8:51 am

        Thanks for this detailed response. What a mess! The money in this account is all from money gifts accumulated over the years. My family is very generous with my daughter, so she’s accumulated quite a bit. I stuffed as much as I could in her RESP and opened the informal trust for the rest. I now wish I hadn’t.

        At Questrade, the Settlor and the Trustee are one and the same. I had read about this being problematic and tried to have my spouse included, but was informed by Questrade that it was not possible.

        Not sure what I am going to do about this now. Having to hire and pay someone to manage this completely defeats the purpose. The account was meant to save on tax, not to create additional expenses. I really appreciate your help though. Thanks again.

    • Reply
      DB
      March 21, 2024 at 9:07 am

      Well, it was a great call to have it in those Horizon ETFs with no distributions and no income, just capital gains.

      If I were you I would assume it’s a bare trust. File the T3 return as a bare trust, there are instructions in the T3 guide and probably manageable if you do your own taxes. Put any capital gains on your daughter’s return, that fits with the attribution rules. And follow your daughter’s instructions on how to invest and dispose of the money so you are just her agent making it extra-bare-trust-y.

      Then you just have to hope that s.75(2) doesn’t bite you in the future and make the capital gains yours instead of hers. If you made the deposits by transferring from a joint account, perhaps you could deem your spouse to have been the settlor. It isn’t really defined who it is being an informal trust with no trust document. If the expected gain isn’t huge, then maybe it’s just worth the gamble because the real difference of it being hers vs. yours in the end might be less than legal fees to get an opinion. But if it’s a lot maybe worth talking to a lawyer. Or you could try to get an interpretation/determination from the CRA. I’m honestly not sure how likely it is this would ever be an issue in reality unless you’re audited on this specifically and it’s a huge amount of money.

      One other thing to avoid is the people giving the gift being considered settlors or otherwise having contributed to the trust. So if for instance you had documentation showing the funds came to Questrade from your/spouse bank account, then perhaps the arrangement could have been that any gifts were in fact given to you/spouse by whomever for you to use for your daughter. Which you can show by the deposit to your bank account that made the transfer to Questrade. And you then decided to gift the funds to her irrevocably and put them in this trust, making it a gift from you instead.

      Anyway. Just an amateur here albeit one who likes this stuff so take that as you will, but that is what I would do. This level of complexity may not be necessary to engage in. I like to be highly compliant and remove as much risk as I can. But it’s also fine to push the grey area. Even still I would do the T3 return as a bare trust as it’s easy and probably won’t attract much attention.

      • Martin
        March 21, 2024 at 10:52 am

        Thanks. I think I’ll follow your advice. Here’s one last clarification I need. I believe a T3RET and Schedule 15 need to be filed. Is this something that can be done through tax software? I use Wealthsimple Tax. Or are these forms that need to be downloaded, completed and sent in separately? Thanks a bunch.

    • Reply
      DB
      March 21, 2024 at 11:16 am

      I am literally just doing this now. You can do it on paper or I found AdvTax which is free but kind of hard to use. You have to apply for an EFILE number in Represent a Client (where you can also apply for a trust # and to represent the trust to CRA). Even if you want to just fill and print, not file, from AdvTax. There’s also myTaxExpress looks to be $40 per return to print or EFILE, another $10 if you want them to EFILE for you.

      If you only have one return probably the paper/PDF is easier. If your trust meets the listed trust requirements you don’t need the SCH15. You might be able to use myTaxExpress free to help you fill/validate and then transfer to your paper form or PDF as well.

      • Chrissy
        March 24, 2024 at 7:13 pm

        Hi DB—thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I’m grateful to you and so many others here for freely sharing information and support. You’ve made some excellent suggestions. 👍

        Martin—apologies for my delayed reply. It’s been a busy month, partially because it’s tax season, so I’ve been preparing our tax documents as well as helping our parents with theirs!

        I’ll share our experience from this tax season: given the new tax rules, ITF accounts have been a big consideration in our tax planning this year. We’ve been advised to treat them as bare trusts, and as long as we keep them under $50k, we will not need to file a T3 return for them.

        Regarding the capital gains, I don’t believe the taxation rules on those have changed. (That is, the gains should still be taxable in the hands of the beneficiary.) However, if you’re questioned by CRA, you’ll likely need to provide documentation that the account is an ITF for your child.

        When we were with Scotia iTrade previously and with our current custodian, our statements and tax slips did/do state the accounts are ITFs and include(d) our kids’ names. So it has not been an issue for us to prove CRA that these are ITFs. (Of course, it also helps that Ed and his team help us to deal with CRA anytime issues arise.)

        However, you’re correct that Questrade doesn’t mention “ITF” or the beneficiary’s name in statements or tax slips. When we were with Questrade, the only place where our kids’ names and the ITF designation were mentioned was in the application form. If you didn’t save a copy of the form, it may be a good idea to ask Questrade for a copy (hopefully, they have it and can send it to you).

        I’m sorry that this info may not be all that helpful to you. I empathize with your frustration with Questrade as they continue to be unhelpful with ITF documentation. I hope you’ll be able to muddle through this and find a workable solution.

  • Reply
    John
    March 18, 2024 at 9:46 am

    We had 3 in trust accounts for three children

    for investment taxes (T3/T5) under 18 I always claimed them on my return

    Over 18 they were claimed on the return of the child now Adult

    However all these forms were sent to me with my name and the child name on the T3 or T5 if it was only my name i would claim under my tax return.

    Actually transferred over one In-trust account to my daughter it went without any issues and she was able use the funds after selling investments to put a deposit on a house in 2024 🙂

    Transferring the other two in-trust accounts to our other two adult children in 2024

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 24, 2024 at 7:15 pm

      Hi John—thanks for sharing your experience with transferring ITFs to adult children. This gives the rest of us hope that these accounts are still viable and able to be used as we’d originally intended. Great news!

  • Reply
    DB
    March 21, 2024 at 5:54 am

    It is looking to me like that $50K exemption does not apply if there has been any trust income/capital gains. Meaning that if you hold ETFs that do distributions, for instance, the T3 return must be filed.

    See Income Tax Act s.150(1), (1.1) and (2). Section 150(1) sets out the requirement to file. Section 150(1.1) excepts individuals (this term includes trusts) from filing in some circumstances. Section 150(1.2) says the exceptions in s.150(1.1) only apply to some trusts, e.g. those with <$50K in listed assets, meaning all others must file.

    So if you have a listed trust per s.150(1.2), then the exceptions in s.150(1.1) apply. And per s.150(1.1)(b)(ii), individuals (includes trusts) do not get an exception if "where the individual is resident in Canada at any time in the year, the individual has a taxable capital gain or disposes of capital property in the year."

    I am also wondering if these are even bare trusts or some other type that require a full accounting of income and distribution on the T3 return. According to the CRA's FAQ on new trust reporting requirements, a bare trust is one where "a trustee can reasonably be considered to act as agent for a beneficiary when the trustee has no significant powers or responsibilities, the trustee can take no action without instructions from that beneficiary and the trustee’s only function is to hold legal title to the property….it would generally be necessary for the trust to consult and take instructions from each and every beneficiary with respect to all dealings with all of the trust property."

    How can that test be met when the beneficiaries are minors and the parent/trustee isn't a court-appointed guardian of property? And even worse, when the trustee is making the investment decisions on their behalf?

  • Reply
    Elsie Morrin
    March 22, 2024 at 1:56 am

    This article by Bob Carrick in the Globe and Mail is very helpful:
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investing/personal-finance/taxes/article-a-how-to-for-people-caught-up-in-cras-confusing-new-rules-for/

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 24, 2024 at 7:22 pm

      Hi Elsie—it sounds like a helpful article, especially as it’s written by Rob Carrick. Too bad it’s subscribers only. 🙁 I hope CRA realizes what a Pandora’s box they’ve opened with these new rules and that they’ll backtrack.

  • Reply
    Elsie Morrin
    March 22, 2024 at 2:00 am

    I can summarize the article if you need me to, as I just noticed it’s subscribers only.

  • Reply
    Sam
    March 25, 2024 at 11:40 am

    Per https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/represent-a-client.html, CRA launched a new portal called “My Trust Portal”. Any one had luck sigining in? I logged into CRA website as primary trustee, entered the trust number (alpha+8 digits) on the ‘Represent a Client’ page but it says that the trust doesn’t exist.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 28, 2024 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Sam—thanks for sharing this. Too bad it didn’t work for you, but based on the latest news (as per the comment from Max) we may not need to file trust returns anymore, which would mean we likely will not need to access this tool!

  • Reply
    Max
    March 28, 2024 at 3:35 pm

    It looks like CRA is now saying that bare trusts are exempt from filing a T3 for 2023, they must be realizing the mess they have created!
    https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/news/newsroom/tax-tips/tax-tips-2024/bare-trusts-exempt-from-trust-reporting-requirements-2023.html

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 28, 2024 at 9:49 pm

      Hi Max—I was hopeful that CRA would backtrack on its decision to include bare trusts in the new reporting requirements. Even I, as a non-professional, could see how the extra time and costs to taxpayers and CRA would not be worth it. Too bad they’re only announcing this now. I’m sure a lot of people have already started the process to file T3s. Thanks so much for sharing the news here. I have been too busy to keep on top of the latest developments!

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