RESP - Registered Education Savings Plan

A good education is a goal most parents have for their children. But the rising cost of post-secondary education has many parents concerned about whether they will be able to afford to send their children to college or university.

Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) can be an effective way to save because they offer tax benefits and allow you to take advantage of federal government grants. There are different kinds of RESPs to choose from, so it’s wise to shop around to find the plan that best meets your needs.

An RESP is a special account to help people save for education after high school. The money earned in an RESP isn’t taxed until it is withdrawn. You can open an RESP for a child, yourself or another adult. This person is called your “beneficiary”.

Making contributions The lifetime contribution limit for each beneficiary is $50,000. If you contribute more than this, you may have to pay a tax on the excess amount. Unlike Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), you can’t deduct RESP contributions from your taxes.

The number of years you can contribute depends on the plan, but it is usually between 18 and 22 years. An RESP can stay open for up to 36 years.

Receiving payments Once your beneficiary is enrolled in a qualifying educational program, they can start receiving payments from the plan. These payments are taxable in the student’s hands. Since most students have little or no other income, they will likely pay little or no tax.

If your beneficiary does not go on to education after high school . You have a few options. Your plan may allow you to choose another beneficiary. In some cases, you can transfer the earnings to your RRSP. Or, you may be able to withdraw the earnings in cash, but you’ll have to pay tax on them. You have to return any grants to the government, unless you have a family RESP.

The federal government will match contributions to a child’s RESP under the following grant programs:

The basic Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) will top up your annual contribution by 20%, up to a maximum of $500 each year for each beneficiary. The lifetime limit for the grant is generally $7,200. Additional CESG grants may be available, depending on your income.

The Canada Learning Bond (CLB) provides an additional grant of up to $2,000 per child to help families with a modest income. Children must be born after December 31, 2003 to qualify.

Adults are not eligible for these grants. For more information about federal education savings grants, visit