Chapter 2. Registered Education Savings Plan provider user guide – Key concepts

Disclaimer: RESP promoters

The information contained on this page is technical in nature. It is intended for Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) and Canada Education Savings Program promoters. For general information, visit the RESP page.

On this page

Alternate format

A PDF version of the Registered Education Savings Plan provider user guide is available on the index page.

List of acronyms

British Columbia Training and Education Savings Grant
Canada Education Savings Act
Canada Education Savings Grant
Canada Education Savings Program
Canada Learning Bond
Canada Revenue Agency
Education savings plan
Employment and Social Development Canada
Fair market value
Income Tax Act
Interface Transaction Standards
Quebec Education Savings Incentive
Registered Education Savings Plan
Social Insurance Number


There are a number of legislative and program elements that govern the delivery and administration of the following education savings incentives:

  • Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG)
  • Canada Learning Bond (CLB)
  • British Columbia Training and Education Savings Grant (BCTESG)

Throughout this guide, we refer to these elements as “key concepts”. Unless otherwise indicated, the key concepts in this chapter apply to all education savings incentives. To view concepts that are unique to a particular incentive, refer to the following chapters:

Relevant key concepts appear immediately following the corresponding eligibility criteria. An understanding of these concepts and requirements is very important. It will allow Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) promoters to:

  • assist the subscriber to apply for, and
  • receive the education savings incentive(s) for which they qualify

For more information, refer to Appendix C for a list of acronyms and terms used in this guide.

2.1. Legislative authorities – Employment and Social Development Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) work together in administering the education savings incentives and RESPs. They do so under the following legislative authorities:

  • the Income Tax Act (ITA) governs RESPs – the vehicle used to deposit education savings incentives and save for the beneficiary’s post-secondary education
  • the Canada Education Savings Act (CESA) authorizes payment of the CESG and the CLB
  • the Canada Education Savings Regulations determine eligibility and ongoing administration of the CESG and the CLB
  • the Special Accounts Appropriation and Control Act authorizes the payment of the BCTESG

2.2. RESPs

The subscriber initiates the incentive application process by entering into an education savings plan (ESP) with an RESP promoter. They also request at the same time the registration of the ESP with the CRA. Once successfully registered, it becomes a RESP. The RESP then becomes the account for contributions, education savings incentive payments, and accumulated earnings. For more information, refer to Chapter 4. Registered Education Savings Plans.

Certain incentives may have particular RESP-related requirements. Such requirements are addressed within the related incentive in the following chapters:

2.3. RESP contribution limits

From 1998 to 2006, the ITA limited RESP annual contributions to a maximum of $4,000. The lifetime contributions limit was up to a maximum of $42,000 per beneficiary. For 2007 and future years, there is no longer an annual contribution limit. The lifetime contribution limit is now $50,000 per beneficiary.

The payments of education savings incentives into an RESP are not considered to be RESP contributions. Therefore, they are not included when calculating RESP contribution limits.

2.4. Social Insurance Number (SIN)

The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a key information element used by the Canada Education Savings Program (CESP) system. For more information, refer to Chapter 3. The Canada Education Savings Program system and Interface Transaction Standards.

Both the subscriber and beneficiary require a SIN in order to establish and register an ESP.

When requesting the Additional CESG and the CLB for a beneficiary under 18 years of age, the SIN information of the individual primary caregiver (PCG) or their cohabiting spouse or common-law partner is also required. This information is not required when applying for the CLB for a beneficiary between 18 and 20 years of age. For a beneficiary in care of a public PCG, the promoter will require their business number (BN) to request these education savings incentives. When applying for the CLB for a beneficiary between 18 and 20 years of age, the PCG information is not required.

When applying for education savings incentives, verify SIN requirements outlined with the individual education savings incentive in the following chapters:

2.5. The beneficiary’s SIN – A unique identifier

The CESP system uses the beneficiary’s SIN to:

  • provide the CRA with registration information about the plan
  • track RESP contributions and the education savings incentive payments for the beneficiary
  • determine if the beneficiary has reached the contribution and education savings incentive limits

The beneficiary’s SIN information is subject to rigorous validation checks. It is critical to verify the accuracy of this information when completing the RESP process and applying for education savings incentives.

Accurate information ensures that education savings incentive requests can be processed. The beneficiary must be established in the CESP system before a request for an education savings incentive can be processed. To do this, the beneficiary’s SIN is compared and validated against 5 key data elements held in the Social Insurance Registry (SIR):

  • first name
  • last name
  • date of birth
  • SIN
  • gender

To apply for the education savings incentives, the RESP promoter must submit beneficiary information. They must match the data held at SIR. Otherwise, an error report will be sent to the RESP promoter, identifying the field(s) in error. Until the correction is made and resubmitted to the CESP system, payment of the education savings incentives will be delayed. For more information, refer to Chapter 3. The Canada Education Savings Program system and Interface Transaction Standards.

Custodial parents and legal guardians can request a free confirmation of the beneficiary’s SIN information at a Service Canada office. This will avoid education savings incentive payment delays due to inaccurate information.

2.5.1. Applying for a SIN

The SIN application form and related information are available at a Service Canada office or by following Service Canada SIN application form.

2.6. Notional accounts and the education savings incentives

RESP consists of the following notional accounts:

  • assisted contributions made to the RESP by the subscriber
  • unassisted contributions made to the RESP by the subscriber
  • CESG – combines the Basic CESG and the Additional CESG
  • CLB – maintained in separate notional accounts for each beneficiary
  • provincial incentives – maintained in separate notional accounts for each designated provincial program
  • earnings

RESP promoters are responsible for maintaining records and books of account. This will enable ESDC to determine if they can pay education savings incentives or if promoters need to repay incentives.

When a financial transaction is processed, funds are deposited into or withdrawn from the appropriate notional account. This will depend on the nature of the transaction.

For example, they deposit contributions into the contribution notional account and education savings incentives into the related notional accounts (example: the CESG is deposited into the CESG notional account).

For education savings incentives administered by ESDC, the CESP system tracks these various activities. This is done for each beneficiary, to ensure they do not exceed the limits. When all or a portion of an education savings incentive must be repaid, the amount is withdrawn (repaid) from the notional account of that incentive.

You can find the requirements for reporting RESP transactions to the CESP system in the CESP Interface Transaction Standards (ITS). A downloadable version of the ITS is available on the Resources for RESP promoters web page under the Systems documentation tab.

2.6.1. Provincial incentives

An RESP promoter must be able to track transactions associated with each of the designated provincial programs that the promoter delivers to the public.

For example:

  • promoters delivering the BCTESG have notional accounts to track all activities associated with the BCTESG. As ESDC administers the BCTESG, they report transactions associated with the BCTESG to the CESP system. The promoter reports them using the BCTESG notional account
  • promoters delivering the Quebec Education Savings Incentive (QESI) have notional accounts to track all activities associated with the QESI. As ESDC does not administer the QESI, promoters do not report specific QESI amounts associated with RESP transactions to the CESP system

Reporting QESI data to the CESP system, promoters must include all assets in RESPs when reporting the fair market value (FMV) of a RESP. They report this information in their monthly summary reports (RT 700). As such, the FMV amount should include education saving incentives from all sources present in the RESP. This includes the QESI if applicable.

Promoters are not required to report specific QESI amounts in educational assistance payment (EAP) transactions reported to the CESP system. However, if there are QESI amounts in an EAP, they must be included in the total EAP amount.

2.7. Key concepts specific to incentives

There are other important key concepts associated with, and unique to, each of the education savings incentives. We define and elaborate on them within each related chapters following:

You can find them immediately after the corresponding eligibility criteria.

Page details

Date modified: