Reap the benefits of the new First Home Savings Account: Talking Tax with CIBC's Jamie Golombek
Most Canadian banks aren’t yet offering the tax-free First Home Savings Account, but the two major banks that have made the option available say demand is high, particularly among young Canadians.
RBC shared some data on the offering this week, saying “tens of thousands” of accounts have been opened since April, a large majority of them held by Canadians under the age of 45 – numbers the bank said show “phenomenal early uptake.”
“We’re seeing amazing interest in this new tax-free account, particularly among younger Canadians who are building a down payment for their first home,” Flora Do, RBC vice-president of investments transformation, said in a news release.
A National Bank of Canada spokesperson told BNNBloomberg.ca that demand has “exceeded our expectations,” with most FHSA holders in their 30s.
“A significant number of holders are placing the maximum amount, and they tend to be on the younger side of the population,” National Bank said in an emailed statement.
RBC and National Bank both declined to share exact figures for the number of accounts opened since the spring, when they started offering the tax-free account meant to help people save for the purchase of a first home.
WHAT IS THE FIRST HOME SAVINGS ACCOUNT?
The federal government announced the tax-free savings account in its 2022 federal budget, amid increasingly steep home prices across Canada. Banks could start offering it as of April 1 of this year.
The account combines some features from a Registered Retirement Savings Plan and Tax-Free Savings Account. Contributions are tax deductible and earnings within the account are tax-free with the condition that they are used for a home purchase once withdrawn.
Accounts have a lifetime limit of $40,000 and an annual contribution limit of $8,000, and unused portions can carry forward into the next year. The option is open to first-time homebuyers living in Canada between the ages of 18 and 71, unless in a province where the legal age to enter a contract is 19.
No bank started offering the account by the April 1 deadline, but National Bank and RBC were the first two of Canada’s major banks to make the option available.
Other financial services business like Questrade and Fidelity Investments Canada have also started offering the accounts.
WHO IS SIGNING UP?
The majority of people with FHSAs at RBC are between the ages of 25 and 34, the bank said, with 56 per cent of account holders within that age group.
The next largest group is people aged 35 to 44, at 20 per cent, while 18 per cent of account holders at RBC are between the ages of 18 to 24 and six per cent of account holders are 45 and older.
More than a quarter of account holders, at 26 per cent, have contributed all or most of the maximum annual amount of $8,000, RBC said, and more than a quarter are contributing regularly to their accounts.
Over five per cent of account holders had already made tax-free withdrawals for a down payment as of June 30, RBC said.
RBC said the most common securities held in the accounts are ETFs and stocks, while mutual funds and GICs are also an investing option for the accounts.
WHEN WILL OTHER BANKS OFFER FHSAS?
Canada’s other Big Six banks have said the FHSAs will be available sometime this year.
TD Bank and Scotiabank both say they will start offering FHSAs later this month. BMO’s website says the accounts will be on offer “later in 2023,” while CIBC has set November as a date.