Pay for education using the Registered Education Savings Plan

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Taking money out of an RESP

Money in a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) can come from many sources:

  • contributions from the subscriber and/or others
  • benefits received, like the Canada Learning Bond (CLB), Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), and/or provincial benefits
  • interest accumulated on the money in the RESP

Because of these different sources of money in an RESP, there are different ways to withdraw.

Educational Assistance Payments (EAPs) include money from benefits and accumulated interest. EAPs are considered income for the beneficiary and are taxed when taken from the RESP. However, beneficiaries may not have much income during their studies, so it is possible that the beneficiary pays little to no tax when receiving an EAP.

A withdrawal of contributions can be requested by the RESP subscriber. The contributions can be taken out of the RESP tax-free and returned to the subscriber. The subscriber may choose to give these funds to the beneficiary. For example, a subscriber could request a withdrawal of contributions if they have no longer received any benefits in their RESP.

If interest in the RESP is not used by the beneficiary through an EAP, accumulated interest can be paid out on its own. This is called an Accumulated Income Payment (AIP) and is usually paid to the subscriber. It is taxed at the regular income tax rate of the subscriber, plus an additional 20% (or 12% for subscribers residing in Quebec).

For more information, consult the section about taking money out of an RESP from the Canada Revenue Agency.

How to use the RESP to pay for education

You can use the money in the RESP to pay for education right away or keep it for future education. To take money out of the RESP to pay for education, the subscriber asks the RESP promoter for an EAP. The beneficiary can use the EAP money to pay for expenses like tuition, books, tools, transportation, and rent.

To receive an EAP and pay for education:

1. See if the school is eligible

It is the responsibility of the RESP promoter to check if a school is eligible before giving the beneficiary money to pay for school. The school must be one of the following:

  • Canadian universities, colleges or other educational institutions Check the following lists to see if the education institution is eligible:

    If you can't find your school on these lists, you may still be eligible to receive an EAP if the school has been designated by a provincial authority under the Canada Student Loans Act. Your student financial assistance office can provide more information. For the contact information for the student financial assistance office in your province/territory or call Service Canada at 1 800 O‑Canada (1‑800‑622‑6232).

  • Outside of Canada: Universities, colleges, or other educational institutions

    For the purposes of EAP, eligible educational institutions outside of Canada do not have to be on the List of Designated Educational Institutions. For an EAP to be paid out, the beneficiary must have been enrolled in a course with a duration of not less than 13 consecutive weeks (3 weeks for university programs).

Minimum program length

To be eligible for an EAP, the educational program must last a certain number of weeks, and include a certain number of hours per week.

  • Full-time program in Canada

    A course or program that lasts at least 3 weeks in a row, with at least 10 hours of instruction or work per week.

  • Full-time program outside Canada

    A program at a foreign educational institution with a duration of at least 13 weeks, or 3 weeks for university programs.

  • Part-time program in Canada

    An educational program at post-secondary school level that lasts at least 3 consecutive weeks, and that requires a student to spend not less than 12 hours per month on courses in the program.

2. Request money on behalf of the beneficiary

To withdraw money from the RESP, the subscriber should contact their RESP promoter.

Once the beneficiary has enrolled full‑time or part‑time in a qualifying post‑secondary educational program, the subscriber can request an EAP to withdraw money from the RESP to help pay for the beneficiary’s studies.

EAPs include the interest earned in the RESP as well as benefits received. EAPs are considered taxable income for the beneficiary.

3. Provide required documentation to support your request

The RESP promoter will ask to see official proof of enrollment before giving the beneficiary the EAP. They may also provide a list of allowable expenses that the money can be used for, or they may ask for receipts for school purchases to prove the money is being spent on allowable educational expenses.

Because they are responsible for administering the RESP in accordance with the Income Tax Act, your RESP promoter determines what is considered a reasonable expense. Any expense that is in accordance with the Act and the terms of the plan would be considered reasonable.

Amount of money that can be withdrawn

  • Full-time program

    If the beneficiary is enrolled in full‑time post‑secondary studies, EAPs are limited to $8,000 during the first‑13‑consecutive weeks of enrollment.

    After that, you may request any available amount with no limit unless the beneficiary takes a break from their studies and does not re-enroll in a qualifying educational program for 12 months. If that happens, the original limit is reinstated.

    For both full- and part-time studies, the beneficiary is also eligible to receive payments for up to 6 months after the end of their enrollment in a qualifying program (provided the provisions of the RESP allow this benefit). This is only possible if the expenses would have qualified for EAPs if they had been paid immediately before the beneficiary's enrollment stopped.

  • Part-time program

    If the beneficiary is enrolled in part-time studies, EAPs are limited to $4,000 for every 13-week period of enrollment.

    For both full- and part-time studies, the beneficiary is also eligible to receive payments for up to 6 months after the end of their enrollment in a qualifying program (provided the provisions of the RESP allow this benefit). This is only possible if the expenses would have qualified for EAPs if they had been paid immediately before the beneficiary’s enrollment stopped.

  • Withdrawing over the limit

    If you need to withdraw more money than the limits allow for full- or part-time studies, you can make a request with the help of your RESP promoter. The promoter must send the request, along with all verified receipts for school-related expenses, to the Canada Education Savings Program. If the request is approved, the Canada Education Savings Program will advise your promoter.

Track the CESG amounts you use for education

When a beneficiary receives an EAP, they will also receive a notice detailing the amount of the CESG in the payment received. The beneficiary cannot receive more than $7,200 from the CESG in their lifetime. It is their responsibility to keep track of the CESG amount received; beneficiaries must repay any amount over the $7,200 limit.

If you don’t use the RESP for education

You have 4 choices:

  • keep the RESP open and leave the money in it for future studies
  • replace the beneficiary
  • transfer the money to other registered savings plans
  • close the RESP

Consult Managing your RESP, taxes, and transfers for more information.


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