Collecting CPP and OAS While Living Abroad

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Did you know that collecting CPP and OAS while living abroad is possible? With retirement comes a lot of freedom and for many Canadians, that means the opportunity to travel more. For some Canadians, it may even mean moving abroad.

Fortunately, you can collect many Canadian pensions and benefits while living abroad. However, where you go and how much time you spent living and working in Canada will impact how much you can receive and the taxes that you will have to pay.  

In this article, I’m going to dig into what you need to know about collecting CPP and OAS while living abroad as well as what to expect with GIS, work pensions, healthcare, and more. Here’s what you need to know.

Collecting OAS when living abroad

The Old Age Security (OAS) pension, is available to Canadians starting at the age of 65. It is possible to collect OAS if you are a non-resident, however, there are a couple of rules in place to qualify.

Firstly, you do need to be at least 65 years of age.

Secondly, you need to have lived in Canada for a minimum of 20 years after your 18th birthday. That said, if you don’t meet this requirement you may still qualify. Some counties have a social security agreement with Canada. Through this agreement, Canada might consider your contributions to foreign national pensions towards calculating OAS entitlement. If you have lived or worked abroad and are looking to apply for OAS as a non-resident, get in touch with Service Canada to discuss your options.  

The amount you qualify for will depend on how long you have lived in Canada. A full OAS pension requires 40 years of living in Canada. So for those who meet the 20-year requirement, you’ll be looking at half of the full value.

While you can apply for and collect OAS when living abroad, you do have to pay more in taxes as a non-resident. Typically, this rate is 25% for non-residents. However, if the country you have moved to has a tax treaty with Canada, this rate can be drastically reduced down to 15%. Countries that have tax treaties with Canada include many popular retirement destinations such as Barbados, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.

The USA also has a tax treaty with Canada, however, it works a little differently. The non-resident tax rate for Canadians living in the USA is 0%. That’s right, zero. You don’t have to pay any non-resident taxes on OAS (or CPP/QPP) if you choose to retire in the USA.

You can learn more about non-resident tax by country here. But, keep in mind, most countries will tax your foreign pension income.

OAS clawback when living abroad

The OAS clawback or recovery tax is charged on excess OAS payments. So if your annual net world income exceeds the specified threshold for the year, then you will be hit with 15% tax.

So, for July 2021-June 2022 payment period the threshold is $79,054.00. So, say your income is $89,050.00 for the same period, this means you will have to pay this recovery tax of 15% on $10,000. So, a total of $1,500.

If you have a high income, you also may meet the maximum threshold for which your OAS payments are cut off, and you won’t get any OAS. For the period of July 2021-June 22, the cut-off amount is $128,149.00.

However, this is a way around this. If you live in a country that has a tax treaty with Canada, you do not have to pay OAS recovery tax if you exceed the threshold.  

Collecting CPP when living abroad

The Canadian Pension Plan (CPP or QPP for Quebec residents) is available to Canadians for the full rate at the age of 65. You also have the choice to collect early starting at age 60 at a reduced rate, or, leave it until age 70 for an increased rate.

CPP differs from OAS in that OAS is non-contributory. Being able to collect CPP means you must have worked in Canada and contributed to CPP during your time here. For that reason, your CPP payments will continue even if you retire abroad. You have already paid into it, so it is yours to collect. There is no residency requirement.

Of course, CPP and QPP still are subjected to the 25% withholding tax rate. Again though, should you choose a country that has a tax treaty with Canada, you will only have to pay the reduced rate.  

How to get CPP and OAS when living abroad

Getting your CPP/QPP and OAS payments while living abroad is very easy. You can set up your banking to accept direct deposits. Direct deposits can be made in the local currency for some countries, you can find more details on that list here.

If for some reason you have a problem and are unable to do this, then Service Canada will send you a cheque for the amount in Canadian dollars.

Collecting GIS when living abroad

GIS or the Guaranteed Income Supplement is given to seniors in Canada who are considered to have a low income. To qualify for GIS you must be a Canadian resident and therefore cannot leave Canada for more than 6 months of the year. Should you decide to live abroad, you will lose any GIS payments. If you return to Canada and are still considered eligible, you can qualify again for GIS.  The same idea applies to any provincial incentives for low-income seniors.

Collecting work pensions when living abroad

Collecting your Canadian work pension when living abroad shouldn’t be a problem at all, however, as with other pensions, 25% will be withheld for tax purposes. That being said, like with OAS, Canada does have tax treaties with some countries that can reduce that rate down to, usually, about 15%.

Taxes on Canadian retirement benefits when living abroad

Most Canadians living abroad don’t contribute to retirement accounts like an Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). This is for two main reasons. First off, if you aren’t filing Canadian tax returns then you can’t take advantage of RRSP tax deduction benefits. Secondly, some financial institutions don’t deal with non-residents which can make investing tricky.

That said, if you have a pre-existing RRSP and are living abroad you can obviously still access the money. Like everything else though, they are subject to be taxed. If you choose to withdraw your RRSP as a lump sum, you’ll be hit with a withholding tax of up to 30%. However, if you’ve converted your RRSP to a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), your withdrawals are considered income. Assuming the country you live in has a tax treaty with Canada, you’d likely pay a lower amount of taxes which is usually around 15%.

Canadian healthcare benefits when living abroad

Here in Canada, we are incredibly lucky with our healthcare benefits. However, if you leave the country for an extended period of time, then you will lose those benefits.

How this works is dependent on the province or territory in which you live. Each province and territory has their own rules regarding how often you need to return to keep your coverage, how much and what they will cover should you have healthcare costs while outside of Canada, and who to contact. I suggest you do a deep dive into your home province/territory’s health’s websites to learn the specifics.

That being said, if you plan on retiring abroad or staying abroad long term, your best bet is to get your own insurance. You can buy private travel insurance to cover you while you are outside of Canada for long periods of time or look to see what health coverage options are available in the country you are residing in.

Final thoughts

While the above information and rates apply to the majority of Canadians retiring abroad, there is a little bit of a loophole that may allow you to reduce the taxes you pay as a non-resident. If you have a low income, the 15-25% that you are required to pay for living abroad might be too high. If this is the case, you can file a section 217 application form. Section 217 essentially allows a non-resident to pay taxes as if they were a Canadian resident rather than a non-resident. This means you’ll get a lower rate than the typical 15-25%. The section 217 application form can be found here.

If your dream is to retire abroad, then go for it. Just be aware of the time and tax implications that it can have on your benefits and pensions. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind yet, then it might be worth doing some research and choosing a destination that Canada has a tax treaty with. That difference of 15% instead of 25% will add up very quickly!

Finally, make sure to understand the tax implications in the country in which you choose to reside as they may tax foreign pension income. If you withhold taxes at the source in Canada, it might be credited towards tax payable in your current country of residence.

Collecting CPP and OAS While Living Abroad

About Hannah Logan

Hannah Logan is a freelance writer based in Ottawa, Canada. She specializes in finance and travel writing and has bylines at Fodor's Travel, O Magazine, and more. She also runs two travel blogs, Eat Sleep Breathe Travel and Ireland Stole My Heart. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @hannahlogan21.

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