Growing old is tough. You start worrying about a bunch of things: creaking joints, lifestyle diseases, fading eyesight and hearing, among many other things.
One thing you shouldn't have to worry about, though, is your OAS payments, which is what I'm going to cover in this article.
We'll go over what old age security pension is, OAS payment dates, if you're eligible for OAS and many other elements.
OAS Payment Dates for 2024
Here is a simple schedule highlighting the OAS payment schedule for 2024:
- January 29, 2024
- February 23, 2024
- March 27, 2024
- April 26, 2024
- May 29, 2024
- June 26, 2024
- July 29, 2024
- August 28, 2024
- September 26, 2024
- October 29, 2024
- November 27, 2024
- December 20, 2024
Canada takes good care of its retirees
Living in Canada means you don't have to worry about money a lot, considering that the country does its best to take care of its older population.
Mercer's 13th edition of the Global Pension Index report puts Canada at number 7 with a score of 69.8.
This is very heartening when you take into account the widespread economic impact that COVID-19 had on retired citizens and the long-term implications for them.
Life expectancies are going up, and there is rising pressure on public resources. But Canada is only second to Finland worldwide, with 192.5% of its GDP invested in retirement funds as of 2020.
Canada's pension system is made up of three parts:
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP payments)
- Old Age Security (OAS payments)
- employment pension plans/individual retirement savings.
Here, we are going to look at the OAS system in detail.
Note: When we talk about a partner in the article below, we are referring to a spouse or common-law partner.
So, let's get started first with what exactly old age security is.
What is OAS (Old Age Security)?
OAS is a monthly supplementary pension plan by the government for low-income senior Canadians who are aged 65 or older.
OAS is funded by tax revenues, and unlike the CPP, the OAS doesn't depend on your employment history; it depends on the number of years that you have been residing in the country.
A Canadian is eligible for the OAS even if they are currently working or receiving income via dividends from buying stocks. The OAS has three benefits under it:
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Allowance for the Survivor
OAS payments are sent by cheque or directly deposited to your bank account.
How Much is the OAS Payment for 2024?
The maximum OAS retirement income payout every month is $713.34 if you are under 74, and the maximum monthly payment is $784.67 if you are 75 or older.
The OAS is calculated every January, April, July and October after taking into account cost-of-living increases. The payment amount was recently increased by 0.8% for the January - March 2024 period.
How Does OAS Work?
To get full OAS benefits, you should have lived in Canada for 40 years since the age of 18.
You will qualify for a partial pension if you need the money before you meet the minimum year eligibility.
This means you will get 1/40th of the full pension amount for every year that you have lived in Canada since the age of 18.
Who is Eligible for the OAS?
To be eligible for an OAS pension, you must be:
- At least 65 years of age
- A Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada (or landed immigrant) when your pension application is approved
- You should also have lived in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18
If you are applying from outside the country:
- At least 65 years of age
- A Canadian citizen or a legal resident when you left Canada
- Have lived in Canada for at least 20 years since the age of 18
You are eligible for the OAS once you turn 65 years old. However, you can choose to defer the OAS until you turn 70 years. More on the benefits of that later.
You are also eligible for OAS despite not meeting the residency requirements if you have been working for Canadian employers outside Canada, like the Canadian Armed Forces or a bank.
To qualify for OAS payments, you need to have returned to Canada within 6 months of ending your employment or have turned 65 years old while still employed and maintained a residence in Canada during your time outside of Canada.
You are also eligible for the OAS payments if you have lived in a country like Portugal, with whom Canada has established a social security agreement.
What is the Max I Can Make and Still Get OAS Payments?
The financial criteria for OAS are that your annual income must be less than $142,609 for those 74 and under and $148,179 for those over 75.
These are the criteria for receiving OAS between January and March 2024.
How Do I Apply to Receive OAS Payments?
In most cases, you do not need to apply to receive OAS payments. However, according to Canada.ca:
"In some cases, Service Canada will be able to enroll you for the OAS pension automatically. In other cases, you will have to apply for the Old Age Security pension. Service Canada will inform you if you have been automatically enrolled. In most cases, you do not have to apply to get this benefit."
Can I Apply Online for OAS?
If you currently live in Canada, you can apply online. If you live abroad, you have to fill out a paper application and mail it to Service Canada. You can apply for your OAS 12 months before the date when you want your pension to start.
Is OAS Taxable?
Yes, it is. Old age security is taxed much like normal income, meaning it doesn't qualify for the benefits of, say, the dividend tax credit or capital gains.
This is something you need to take into consideration when planning your income in retirement.
Is OAS Based on Family Income?
No, OAS is not based on family income but on individual income.
A smart way to ensure that a couple gets full OAS is to split your combined income into below $86,912 each.
This means that if your household income is around $173,824, both partners would qualify for full OAS.
OAS payments through the latter half of the year will be clawed back based on your income in the previous year.
The reason for clawing back payments made in the second half of the year is that your most recent tax filing is usually done at this point.
Now, this is a little tricky. So, pay attention.
The OAS pension recovery tax or clawback operates a little differently. According to this report on taxtips.ca:
"When a high-income earner first starts receiving the OAS pension, it may be immediately clawed back based on prior tax returns. If you start receiving your pension in the first 6 months of the year, the amount will be reduced based on your income as per the tax return filed in the 2nd preceding taxation year. If you start receiving your pension in the last 6 months of the year, the amount will be reduced based on your income as per your tax return filed in the preceding taxation year."
"OAS payments beginning in January to June 2022 were clawed back based on your income as per your 2020 tax return. OAS payments for July to December 2022 are clawed back based on your income as per your 2021 tax return (as are OAS payments for January to June 2023). However, when your 2022 tax return is filed, the OAS clawback is recalculated based on your 2022 taxable income so that you may recover some of the tax."
The maximum annual income threshold amount changes every year. If your net annual income exceeds this amount, you have to pay back part or all of your OAS pension.
For 2022, the threshold amount is $86,912.
How is the OAS Clawback Calculated?
The OAS recovery tax is calculated in this manner:
For every dollar over the maximum threshold limit, you have to pay back 15 cents. This tax is recovered by reducing your OAS payments.
Let's see an example in action.
The threshold for the clawback tax for 2022 is $86,912. Let's assume your income was $100,000.
The clawback would be 15% of the difference between $100,000 and $86,912.
$100,000-$86,912 = $13,088
15% of $13,088 = $1963.20
If you live outside Canada and receive an OAS pension, you must also pay the non-resident tax. This tax is deducted from monthly OAS pension payments.
If the reductions in your OAS cause hardship, you can write to the Canada Revenue Agency to review your situation.
They review each application on a case-by-case basis.
How to Effectively Reduce Your OAS clawback
There are many ways to reduce your OAS clawback. But here are 4 key strategies to reduce OAS clawback.
Invest in a TFSA
Tax-free savings accounts allow Canadians to earn tax-free from their investments, whether in the form of a dividend or capital appreciation. This means that it will not count towards your annual income, which in turn will reduce your OAS clawback.
Contribute to your RRSP
Many Canadians make the mistake of thinking once they've retired, their RRSP provides no benefits. However, you can continue to contribute to one until the calendar year in which you turn 71. RRSP contributions made will lower your overall net income and, as such, can lessen your OAS clawback.
If you remember from above, we mentioned that OAS payments are based on individual income, not family income. So, if you are earning a high income, splitting your income with your common-law partner or spouse can reduce your OAS clawback.
Defer your OAS payments
Deferral of your OAS payments not only will save on your OAS clawback, but it can also make your OAS payments higher when you do claim them. So, if you don't need the income now, this is something to consider.
Of note, you could consider deferring your CPP as well, as this adds to your taxable income, thus pushing you higher toward that OAS clawback threshold.
Let's Go Into More Benefits of Deferring OAS
You can defer OAS until you turn 70, i.e., five years after you turn 65.
This lets you claim a higher amount when you turn 70 and start receiving the OAS. You will receive an extra 0.6% for every month that you have deferred it, until the maximum of 36% at age 70.
A key thing to note, however, is that if you choose to defer OAS payments, you will not be eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and your spouse or common-law partner will not be eligible for the Allowance benefit during the deferral.
There is no advantage in delaying payments after the age of 70.
What is the Guaranteed Income Supplement?
The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is a monthly payment you receive if you are at least 65 years old, live in Canada and receive OAS payments.
The financial criteria for receiving GIS are:
- You are single, divorced, widowed, and your annual income is below $21,624.
- Your annual income plus the annual income of your partner is below $28,560, and your partner receives full OAS payments, or your combined annual income is below $51,840 if your partner does not receive an OAS pension and Allowance or your combined annual income is below $39,984, but your partner receives the Allowance.
You have to apply for the GIS at the same time as you apply for the OAS pension.
What is the Maximum Amount You Can Receive Through GIS?
If you are single, divorced and widowed, and your income is below $21,456, you will receive a maximum amount of $1,065.47 a month.
If your annual income plus the annual income of your partner is below $28,560 and your partner receives the full OAS pension, you will receive $641.35 every month.
If your partner doesn't receive OAS or pension and your combined annual income is less than $51,840, you will receive $1065.47 every month.
If your partner receives the Allowance but your combined income is lower than $39,984, you will receive $641.35 every month.
What is the Allowance?
The Allowance is a monetary benefit available to low-income individuals aged 60 to 64 who are the spouse or common-law partner of a Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) recipient.
If your partner receives GIS and the maximum OAS payments, you are eligible for a monthly payment amount of $1,354.69.
Your combined annual earnings (your income plus your partner's income) must be less than $39,984.
Residency criteria for the Allowance is that you have to be a Canadian citizen or a legal resident who has lived in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18.
If your partner doesn't receive the OAS or GIS because they are incarcerated, you will receive the Allowance as long as you meet the age and residency criteria.
When you turn 65, your Allowance will stop, and OAS and GIS will start.
What is Allowance for the Survivor?
Allowance for the Survivor is a monetary benefit that is available to low-income individuals aged 60-64 whose partner has passed away.
You qualify for this benefit if:
- You are Canadian or a legal resident, reside in Canada or have resided in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18
- Your partner has died
- You haven't remarried or entered into a common-law relationship, and your annual income is less than the maximum threshold
- Your annual income must be less than $29,912. The maximum monthly Allowance for the Survivor you will receive is $1,614.89 from January - March 2024.
What is OAS Eligibility for Immigrants?
If you are a sponsored immigrant who has lived in Canada for less than 10 years after the age of 18, you are not eligible for either the GIS or Allowance or Allowance for the Survivor benefits.
The only exceptions to this rule are if your sponsor dies, files for bankruptcy, is incarcerated for over six months or is convicted of abusing you. If you are a non-sponsored immigrant, regular rules apply to you.
OAS (Old Age Security) & Allowance Programs in Canada are Useful Tools to Understand
The OAS and its allowance programs are great tools to ensure that you don't suffer financial hardship in your golden years.
It would help to plan your retirement accordingly to get the most out of these benefits.
Ideally, you should delay accessing these benefits until you hit the 40-year residency mark or the age of 70.