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The Ultimate Guide to Informal Trusts (For Canadians)

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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.

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 are not attributable to the beneficiary2. Contributions are 100% attributable to the beneficiary
Source of contributions:
- Gifts.
- Allowance.
- Casual jobs.
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 contributor/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 are not attributable to the beneficiary

Contributions that are not attributable to the beneficiary 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 contributor/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 are 100% attributable to the beneficiary

Contributions that are 100% attributable 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 contributor/trustee and sometimes taxed in the hands of the beneficiary.

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!

Closing thoughts

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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38 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.

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