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  • Brett Watt

Understanding the ins & outs of an Individual Pension Plan (IPP)


Having multiple income sources may be an important part of preparing for retirement. An individual pension plan (IPP) offers certain benefits beyond more traditional vehicles, but there are some important considerations to make. Here’s what business owners and other eligible employees should know about IPPs and their potential for retirement income.


What Is an Individual Pension Plan?

An individual pension plan is a defined contribution plan. This registered retirement plan is offered through an employer, and investment earnings are tax-sheltered as long as they stay within the plan.


Contributions made to an IPP by an employer, as well as associated administrative costs, are tax-deductible for the sponsoring corporation. In addition, you are not required to pay taxes on money contributed to the account by the business, only on the withdrawals made in retirement.


An IPP offers the maximum pension benefits allowed under Canada’s Income Tax Act.


Who Is an IPP for?

An IPP is best for business owners or high-level executives - those who typically have a 10 percent or more stake in the corporation sponsoring the plan. Because of its higher contribution limits (as compared to an RRSP), it can be a popular option with high-earners over 40 who are preparing for retirement.


The specific tax advantages of using an IPP to prepare for retirement will depend on a variety of factors including your age, how long you’ve owned/held stake in a business and your annual reported income.


To determine if an IPP is a smart strategy for you, you’ll want to work with your financial advisor. They may work in conjunction with an actuary to better understand your unique position.


How Does an IPP Work?

In order to establish an IPP for yourself, you need to meet a few criteria. These include:

  • You must be a shareholder, owner or employee of the sponsoring business

  • You must earn income that’s reported on your T4 statement annually

As a defined contribution plan, you will have an idea of what your income stream will be in retirement. Payments will begin after you have turned 71, and they will be calculated according to the plan’s terms or the IPP minimum amount defined by the CRA (whichever is greater).1


Funding an IPP

There are several types of funding available for IPPs. These include:

  • Past-service funding - lump-sum contributions for previous years in which you’ve worked for the sponsoring corporation.

  • Funds contributed for the current year of employment.

  • Terminal funding - lump-sum contribution made upon retirement from the sponsoring corporation.

  • Deficit funding - a special contribution the sponsoring corporation can make if the investment has underperformed.

IPP vs. RRSP

High-earners may be limited by the contribution limits defined by an RRSP. How much you are able to contribute to your IPP will depend on your annual T4 income and the years in which you’ve been a part of the sponsoring corporation. The longer you’ve worked and the more money you make, the greater the difference in contribution limits an IPP will have over an RRSP.


Along with the tax deductions available to the sponsoring corporation, IPP assets have creditor protection under provincial legislation. RRSPs may be creditor protected, but only under certain circumstances.


In the event of your passing and the passing of your spouse, your RRSP would be fully taxed upon transfer to a non-spousal beneficiary. An IPP, however, may provide your family with the ability to forego this tax or probate fees. Here’s how: If your child or spouse is also employed by the sponsoring business and earning income reported on a T4 statement, they are eligible to be a member of your IPP. This can make an IPP a valuable option for family-owned businesses.


It’s important to note that contributions made to your IPP will limit the amount you’re allowed to contribute to both your and your spouse’s RRSP.


An IPP can be a beneficial retirement savings vehicle for business owners and company stakeholders. Work with your financial professional to understand potential costs and benefits involved for both you, your family and your business.



This publication contains opinions of the writer and may not reflect opinions of Manulife Securities Incorporated. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but no representation, or warranty, express or implied, is made by the writer or Manulife Securities Incorporated or any other person as to its accuracy, completeness or correctness. This publication is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any of the securities. The securities discussed in this publication may not be eligible for sale in some jurisdictions. If you are not a Canadian resident, this report should not have been delivered to you. This publication is not meant to provide legal or account advice. As each situation is different you should consult your own professional Advisors for advice based on your specific circumstances.

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