Registered education savings plan (RESP) Bulletin No.1R3
This bulletin has been modified to include the changes to the educational assistance payment (EAP) limits referenced in Budget 2023 and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit requirements.
It provides the following information on EAPs:
- EAP annual threshold
- reasonable and unreasonable expenses for EAPs
Educational assistance payments
An EAP is defined in the Income Tax Act as an amount, other than a refund of payments, that is paid out of an RESP to or for beneficiaries to help them further their education at the post‑secondary level.
Under paragraph 146.1(2)(g.1) of the Act, an EAP may be paid to a beneficiary who is enrolled as a student in a qualifying educational program at a post-secondary educational institution, or who is at least 16 years old and enrolled as a student in a specified educational program at a post-secondary educational institution.
For an explanation of the terms used in this bulletin, see Guide RC4092 Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP).
Payment limits applicable to EAPs
Budget 2023 introduced legislation to increase the EAP limits from $5,000 to $8,000 for full-time studies and from $2,500 to $4,000 for part-time studies. The legislation received Royal Assent on June 22, 2023. These new limits are effective March 28, 2023, however, RESP promoters may need to amend the terms of their existing plans in order for the new limits to apply. Previously paid EAPs cannot be retroactively modified.
For students enrolled in a qualifying educational program (full-time studies), there is a $8,000 limit for the first 13 consecutive weeks of enrolment in the program. After the student has completed the 13 consecutive weeks, there is no limit on the amount of EAPs that can be paid if the student continues to qualify to receive them. If there is a 12 month period in which the student is not enrolled in a qualifying educational program for 13 consecutive weeks, the $8,000 maximum applies again. For those enrolled in a specified educational program (part-time studies), there is a $4,000 limit for any period of 13 consecutive weeks of enrolment.
The Minister designated for the purpose of the Canada Education Savings Act (CESA), may approve an amount over these limits on a case-by-case basis. For information on how to request an EAP that exceeds these limits, promoters can call the Canada Education Savings Program at 1-888-276-3624.
The CRA sets an annual threshold for EAPs (see Table 1 below) as a guideline for promoters. On an administrative basis, promoters are not expected to assess the reasonableness of each expense item as long as the annual EAP amount is below the threshold and the conditions permitting an EAP are met. This threshold is indexed based on the consumer price index.
Guidelines for EAP requests
If the total of EAPs requested exceeds the annual threshold, the promoter must determine the reasonableness of the expenses. Promoters can ask for additional information and documentation, including receipts, to the subscribers and beneficiaries of the RESP at any time.
Please note that the CRA can audit any EAP, regardless of the amount. Therefore, RESP subscribers and beneficiaries are responsible for keeping their records up to date and providing receipts upon request.
Here are some of the expenses that the CRA considers reasonable and unreasonable:
- Course materials, such as textbooks, tools and other items needed to complete a particular course or program
- Student fees
- Moving expenses to and from school
- Payment for housing while away at school, either on campus residency or off campus, including rent and utilities
- Computer/laptop and telephone
- Costs related to Internet and phone bills
- Basic personal needs while at school, including toiletries, clothing and food (if food is not already included in the student’s housing costs)
- Basic furniture and housing needs, such as bedding, towels, plates, cutlery
- to move in and out from school and during official school breaks (such as holidays and reading week, where the student returns to their principal residence)
- local transportation costs while at school
- the purchase of a car, if it is in the beneficiary’s name and used to transport the student to and from school and school-related activities
- Costs associated with family members and friends visiting a student, including when the student moves in and out
- Arts, culture and entertainment, such as museums, fine dining, movies, plays, sporting events, concerts, festivals, unless required to complete their program
- Physical fitness activities, gym membership, sports and recreation, unless required to complete their program
- Attending conferences, seminars and retreats, unless required to complete their program
- Personal care, such as hair, spa and wellness treatments
- Costs associated with dentist, doctor and other medical appointments
- Travel unrelated to school
- for personal reasons, such as vacations (excluding official school breaks where the student returns to their principal residence)
- when the student is not enrolled (excluding their move in and out)
- Down payments on any property
- Purchases that are not in the beneficiary’s name
- Promoters have ultimate responsibility for issuing EAPs that they consider to be reasonable, and they have the authority to be more restrictive than what is listed in these guidelines
- Any item listed above as “reasonable expenses” can be considered unreasonable if costs are not in line with furthering a student’s education at a post-secondary school level
- A subscriber can withdraw their contributions from the RESP without having to repay the Canada Education Savings Grant portion if at least one of the RESP beneficiaries is eligible to receive an EAP. If that condition can’t be met, the subscriber can withdraw their contributions and repay the CESG.
Where to get help
Registered Plans Directorate
You can find more information at Savings and pension plan administration or by contacting the CRA's Registered Plans Directorate:
Toll-free in Canada and the United States: 1-800-267-3100.
If you are calling from outside of Canada or the United States, call us collect at 613-221-3105. The Registered Plans Directorate accepts collect calls.
By mail and courier
Due to a building refit spanning multiple years, the Registered Plans Directorate’s mailing address has been temporarily changed. Please use the following address for all correspondence until further notice:
Registered Plans Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
2215 Gladwin Cres
Ottawa ON K1B 4K9
We welcome feedback on this bulletin. Send comments by email to RPD.LPRA2@cra-arc.gc.ca.
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