The authority upon which the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) relies to access funds contained in Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) is based in section 224 of the Income Tax Act and section 317 of the Excise Tax Act. The CCRA’s authority is not based on court decisions; however, in general terms, court decisions help to clarify the interpretation of legislation.
The policy of the CCRA is that RRSPs and RRIFs are collection avenues of last resort. Attempts to seize funds in a RRSP or RRIF will normally only be taken when other avenues of collection have failed. Furthermore, such actions are only taken on certain types of RRSPs, specifically those containing conditions which allow policy holders to withdraw funds in a plan on request, in the same manner individuals would withdraw funds from their bank account.
The courts have consistently found that those RRSPs and RRIFs containing conditions that lock-in the funds for the specific purpose of providing the policy holder with a retirement savings plan on reaching a certain age, or which contain suitable life-insurance or annuity components, are beyond the reach of all creditors, including the CCRA.
The foregoing is applicable to tax debtors of all provinces, although the CCRA will take into consideration provincial legislation relating to life insurance and annuities.