Is a Life Insurance benefit taxable?

The advantages of life insurance are well known: It is foundational to a sound financial plan to ensure peace of mind for your family if anything were to happen to you.

A policy’s death benefit, payable to your estate or beneficiary when you die, maintains financial stability. The family can pay final expenses, any debt such as credit cards or business debts, and cover ongoing costs.

Is the death benefit taxable?

Most of the cash received from a life insurance contract is not subject to income tax. Your beneficiaries — spouse, children, grandchildren or other beneficiary allocated will not need to report life insurance benefit proceeds on their tax return as taxable income. However, if you have assigned your estate as the beneficiary, the death benefit could be subject to tax. Moreover, fiscal gifts or inheritances generally are not taxable. 

Beneficiaries or heirs do not owe estate inheritance tax or death tax. It is the estate of the deceased that pays any such tax due to the government. If the policy owner’s estate is the policy’s beneficiary, the death benefit may — in some cases be subject to tax. 2 

When could a taxable situation arise?

When you own a permanent life insurance policy, accumulating interest or equity investments made to a policy’s cash value, taxes will be payable on that growth gained above the cost base of money invested. 3 

Upon your beneficiaries receiving any investment earnings from the policy, along with a death benefit, the increase on investments, not the death benefit, would be taxable as income.

Likewise, you will pay taxes on any increase in cash value based on the investments in the policy fund — should you surrender the policy and receive its cash value in return. 

Tax Reporting Rules for Life Insurance Payouts

The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) makes receiving life insurance proceeds easy for beneficiaries relative to tax reporting. Unless the tax is due on the above-stated earnings, these amounts do not need reporting as taxable income on a tax return.

What if there is an increase in the cash value? 

These amounts don’t need reporting as taxable income on a tax return unless some tax is due on interest earnings. If there are interest earnings, it will be reported to the beneficiary by the insurance company on a T5 slip, reportable on line 121 of the beneficiary’s return (or of the policy owner when surrendering the cash value of the policy).


2 Turbo Tax

3 Turbo Tax



7 ways life insurance protects your financial foundation

Life insurance has been called the foundational strategy of building and protecting your net worth. The initial stages of your financial strategy should include adequate life insurance coverage.


The following 7 tips will give you a template for your life insurance planning for a lifetime.

  1. Term life insurance is affordable protection when you are young When young, term insurance coverage offers the lowest cost per thousand dollars of coverage. It comes in various renewable periods of time, for example, 5-,10-, 20-year term and term to age 100.
    • Upon each renewal of term insurance, the cost can increase and may have a final term period ending at a certain age such as age 65, 75 or age 100.
    • Many term plans can be converted to lifetime insurance coverage without medical evidence, that will continue to cover you for the duration of your life.
  2. Life insurance can pay off large accumulations of debt  Many owe thousands of dollars on their credit cards or a large amount of business debt.
    • Replace the debt monkey with cash money Term life insurance often solves debt concerns. It can offer you the peace of mind that you will not be saddling your family with ongoing debt.
    • If you own a business You and your partners can enter agreements to redeem debt or buy business interests providing cash to your heirs.
    • Debt-free succession plans work better Infusions of cash into a business can help a succession plan to work well.
  3. Your life insurance plan can change to adapt to your needs Review your life insurance during each of life’s stages. Our circumstances change dramatically and so do our needs for life insurance. It may be time to review your life insurance and verify beneficiaries, policy amounts and any riders associated with the plans. As you evolve financially, so do your life insurance needs.
  4. You can protect your family when you have young children When you are newly married and starting a family, life insurance is purchased to provide tax-free capital in case one of the parents should die.
  5. When your children are going to college protect your liabilities Many of us tap into our savings to help meet their children’s tuition and housing expenses. We may purchase a child’s first car, or pay him/her an income for one or more years. If you die without providing continuing support, your young adult child may need to quit seeking a higher education due to a shortage of funds to pay for tuition and expenses.
  6. Special Estate Planning solutions When your estate will face a large tax bill, or you desire to leave a large sum of money to an heir or a charity, there are life insurance solutions. The proceeds of a death benefit can solve estate-related problems such as paying an estate’s tax liability on capital gains.
    • As you approach retirement, you may have accumulated assets that will be taxed as capital gains: such as a cottage, business, equity fund holdings, or a stock portfolio. Life insurance that continues for a lifetime, such as Term to age 100 or Whole Life (or Permanent Life)—can help pay the income tax due in your estate.
    • This can also replace an estate’s money used for paying taxes on remaining Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) holdings, as these funds are fully taxable to the estate where there is no surviving spouse or dependent child.
    • It can also pay off large business debts that may be left as an ongoing liability, weighing on a surviving spouse’s financial security.
    • You may have an heir who will need a large sum of capital invested to provide a lifetime income from a trust fund. This is often the case with disabled children who may have special needs which can be expensive over a lifetime.
    • You may want to leave a significant sum of money to a charity of your choice.
    • You may want to transfer large sums of wealth in a controlled manner using life insurance beneficiary directives which may in some cases circumvent probate and notification to others when you desire privacy in your estate outside of your will.
  7. Your exact life insurance needs can be calculated Life insurance specialists use a calculating system referred to as “capital needs analysis”. Consider insuring the adults in your family. The breadwinner’s income can be replaced to protect your family’s financial security. You may have debts that you’d like redeemed. Final expenses can be paid. A mortgage can be paid off. Retirement money can be generated. There are many good reasons to strengthen your financial security with life insurance.

It is necessary to calculate the capital needed over any short or long period to meet any financial situation. Call for an appointment to have us review your life insurance.

Note: Talk to your advisor about potential tax exemption changes to investment components of life insurance.

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Life Insurance can solve the final RRSP/RRIF tax bite


Did you know that you cannot pass on your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) holdings tax-free to your heirs? Once the second spouse dies, all monies in an RRSP or RRIF are taxable as income in your final tax return unless there are dependent children.

An eligible individual is a child or grandchild of a deceased annuitant under an RRSP or RRIF, or of a deceased member of a Registered Pension Plan (RPP) or a Specified Pension Plan (SPP) or Pooled Registered Pension Plan (PRPP), who was financially dependent on the deceased for support, at the time of the deceased’s death, because of an impairment in physical or mental functions. The eligible individual must also be the beneficiary under the Register Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), into which the eligible proceeds will be paid. 1

In most cases, significant tax may be due, depending on your marginal tax rate and final calculations in your estate. Consider talking to your advisor about buying a joint last-to-die life insurance policy timed to pay after you and your spouse die. It can equate to a small percentage of your RRSP/RRIF holdings per year to make up for the taxes due on what has become, for some, a small fortune.

1 RDSP –

Can life insurance offer my heirs capital security?

Life insurance has provided families with basic financial security for well over 100 years. For example, a healthy, non-smoking 40-year-old male can purchase up to $500,000 worth of insurance for approximately $50 per month. That life insurance policy would pay out a death benefit, the equivalent of up to 10,000 times the amount of one monthly premium payment.


In this case, the $500,000 could provide necessities such as groceries, shelter, home repairs, means of transportation, and education for dependents. In this sense, the value of life insurance is tangible. Contrasted against the assets and services such a large death benefit can purchase, we realize how small the premium cost really is.

When does life insurance begin covering my family’s financial risk?

Even if death occurs one day after the initial premium payment, the full benefit is payable tax-free, thus instantly creating new capital, sometimes far exceeding the insured individual’s net worth. Most accountants and financial advisors agree that life insurance is foundational for families with dependents to build financial security.

An immediate foundation of financial security. In addition to savings, life insurance is designed to immediately provide the capital necessary to create ongoing investment income for dependents after income taxes and other liabilities are paid.

When you are not financially independent Life insurance can make up the shortfall when investments assets have not yet grown to the extent that your net worth enables you or your heirs to live in total financial independence.

When your health is not the best Many people who are not in perfect health are surprised to find that they can also purchase life insurance to ensure their financial security.

Note: Life insurance premiums vary according to the policy type. In some cases, paying a little more premium offers enhanced benefits Be aware that tax-deferral strategies may change due to legislation.

What insurance protects travelers and visitors?

These insurance plans can offer emergency medical protection for visitors, immigrants, international students and residents who are not covered by government health insurance. Visiting guests can be covered by valid medical health insurance, which begins upon arrival here insofar as it is bought ahead of travel.

Emergency medical expenses While travelling outside your country or locality, your government health insurance may partially cover some costs. Daily or annual coverage is great if you travel to warmer climates in the winter or travel year-round.

What about travel coverage? International travel covers an insured individual with emergency insurance which pays for expenses related to an emergency medical condition (covered by the plan). These expenses may be a hospital stay, prescription drugs, ambulance transportation, etc. Please refer to the policy for more details.

Coverage can include these expenses:

  • Bedside companion travel and sustenance allowance
  • Ambulance transportation
  • Diagnostic (X-ray, lab tests)
  • Hospital (semi-private room)
  • Flight and travel accident coverage
  • Prescription drugs
  • Physician or surgeon
  • Return transportation to the location of travel departure if emergency medical attention is needed
  • Emergency dental treatment by a licensed dentist and associated cost of prescription drugs while the insured is travelling.
  • Accidental injury, dismemberment, or death by accident where the accident occurred during travel
  • Loss/damage of baggage and personal effects
  • Trip cancellation and interruption

Understand the details. It is better to fill in a form and get a copy of the questions and answers within a contract pertaining to any age-related or medical underwriting processes, if not in person, via a digital meeting and signature. File these documents in case of the need to claim against travel insurance. Avoid policy cancellation due to misinforming the insurer concerning medical questions, which must reveal all medical history and medications used, plus retain a hard copy as your proof.

Note: Refer to the policy, which may vary. Individual plans may be purchased outside of an employer’s group plan.

Universal Life Insurance

shutterstock_26411348There are many compelling reasons to combine your investments in a tax-advantaged life insurance policy. Tax advisors have been pointing their wealthier clients to these unique policies for years. Let’s examine some of the tax benefits, investment options, overall features, and for whom they are best suited. Depending on the insurer, there can be many possible options, but all enjoy some of the following essential elements.

  • You can earn and accumulate tax-deferred interest. A tax deferral aspect of the policy allows that you may effectively increase the after-tax yield of your investments and policy cash value over the long term. The fund from which the cost of internal cost of insurance offers interest-bearing accounts over various term periods. Comparatively for example, if you are nearing a 50% tax bracket and your after-tax yield on interest-bearing term deposits is a low 2.5%, you would have to earn 5% pre-tax. The UL deposits conversely are protected from secondary annual taxation on interest earnings until taken out.
  • The tax savings can pass tax-free to your beneficiaries. This offers an estate planning advantage. With your first premium payment, you secure a substantial death benefit in relation to premiums paid. If you hold the policy for several years, you can begin to create tax-advantaged growth within the policy. If the policy’s cash value grows, your entire principal, plus untaxed interest, including the remaining life insurance value, pass totally tax-free to your heirs.
  • The cost of insurance is paid with pre-tax dollars. The cost of insurance can eventually be paid from this growing interest-earning side-fund. Once enough money is held within the fund, over a long period, the cost of insurance is paid from some of these untaxed monies. Depending on the insurer, the insurance in the plan can be an annual term, 10-year term, or term to age 100, or a combination of term periods. Premiums for this insurance relate to your age, health, and smoking status. The premium costs are initially calculated to pay for the insurance and to increase the reserve cash fund designed to build funds that can be used to prepay future ongoing premiums.
  • The premium payments are flexible. You can pay what is referred to as a minimum premium. If you want to pre-fund the policy with more money, you may be able to increase your annual premium on a monthly, annual, or occasional lump sum basis, up to a specified maximum. A maximum premium is calculated and pre-set in order to keep your policy exempt from accrual taxation. Once your cash value increases, you may be able to reduce or skip premium payments altogether, without jeopardizing insurance coverage.
  • The premium payment periods are flexible. Some policies may have a minimum annual premium for several years. A well-funded policy’s money reserve (cash account) can continue to grow even as it pays for the cost of insurance. If you want to accelerate your tax-deferred interest savings, you may be able to increase premium payments. If you choose to select a limited-pay premium period, and interest rates are low, you may need to pay for several more years to compensate for the low-interest rate. Conversely, if interest rates are high, you may be able to shorten your premium-paying period. Once you stop paying premiums, the insurance, administrative charges, and cost of any additional benefits and riders would continue to be paid (deducted) from your side-fund’s reserve account value.
  • There are additional riders and extra benefits. In some cases, term riders can be added to the policy, allowing for simple, low-cost insurance on the life of the insured and his or her children. Some policies provide a disability rider, which could provide income in the event that the owner is disabled. Additionally, a waiver of premium rider could possibly pay for premiums.
  • There is potential creditor protection on the cash value. Special insurance laws may protect these policies from creditors, which could preserve the cash reserves if a business faced economic turmoil. However, a business owner cannot quickly hide money in a tax-deferred cash reserve if he or she knew there was potential bankruptcy looming on the horizon.
  • You can borrow against your cash account’s reserves. The cash surrender value (CSV) is just another name for the remaining cash in the side fund. If you had $100,000 in that fund, you would be able to borrow against it or withdraw it with some potential taxation. If you cancel the policy later in life, you should receive most of this cash value. However, there may be taxes due on a portion of the funds when withdrawn or when the whole policy is cancelled. For this reason, alternatively, a loan against the cash value may make more sense; which would allow the money to stay within the fund without accrual taxation, on reserve, while continuing to earn tax-free interest.
  • Funds are accessible. It is essential that such policies are well funded and that you monitor your cash reserves to avoid the cost of insurance overly reducing them (the cost of insurance can increase the older one gets). The tax-deferred funds can then grow to become a considerable liquid asset and result in an increase in your net worth. By carefully managing the cost of insurance (and perhaps reducing the insurance as the funds rise in value), you can minimize the reduction of the value of the tax-deferred account. While funding the policy sufficiently you continue to pay for the upcoming insurance premiums with pre-tax dollars
  • The tax deferral is a long term strategy. If you withdraw too much money too early, there may be applicable taxes due, and a surrender fee may apply. Early withdrawal may reduce the functionality of the strategic advantage because any increasing insurance cost can deplete smaller reserves.

The long-term benefit is the potential tax-advantaged investment growth that can outperform similar investments held in a taxable interest bearing vehicle. Policies can allow for future withdrawals to provide for special financial needs or additional retirement income. Premiums are always paid with after-tax dollars from the fund (which includes the initial tax-paid principal used to make deposits). This allows a good portion of any future withdrawals, in most cases, to be paid out tax-free. Moreover, the major benefit is that the entire death benefit including the cash value passes to the heir’s tax-free at death.

Talk to your advisor about any legislation changes that may affect taxation.

What tax advantage does life insurance offer?

There are certain life insurance policies offered with interesting tax-planning advantages. Legal tax exempt rights are allowed in our tax legislation in relation to life insurers, which allows the possibility to accomplish the following.

  • Premiums over and above the associated costs of insurance, and premium tax are invested and can accumulate tax-deferred within certain plans.
  • Tax-deferral of the investments continue until such time that withdrawals are taken from the policy.
  • Tax is avoided on both the face amount of the insurance, plus any ongoing cash accumulation in the policy, when paid out to the beneficiaries on the death of the insured. Thus, tax is permanently avoided, after the insurance costs prefunding any estate liabilities have been paid out of tax-free dollars within the plan.

Here are some uses within an estate:

  • Final tax liabilities in an estate such as on capital property or on the remaining RRSP/RRIF value is taxed fully as income and can be pre-funded.
  • In some cases, tax exempt plans can be used as a pledge to secure a loan that can be used to create additional cash flow in retirement. Cash resulting from a loan is not taxable. Where the loan is later paid from the death benefit, payment can be deferred until death. Repayment of the loan is thus partly repaid using pre-taxed dollars.

Others may borrow directly from their policy subject to the policy terms.



What types of life insurance are available?

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Life Insurance Plans for Individuals

Life insurance is a type of coverage that pays benefits upon a person’s death to designated beneficiaries. In some cases, there may be a maturity date, where the insured, if still living, can receive the proceeds. A small premium gives you immediate coverage and provides for a large death benefit payable upon the death of the insured to provide capital to provide an income for dependents.

Tax deferral is allowed with some types of life insurance to offer insurance in tandem with an investment component, which can allow increased funds to pass tax-free to heirs. This advanced estate planning tool is used by tax specialists who maximize the estate value while using life insurance. The investment after achieving growth can enhance retirement income.

Types of Life Insurance
Life insurance may be divided into two classes:

1. Term Life Insurance Term Life is less expensive, but most term periods are only temporary. Many people choose term life insurance (or term rider on a permanent plan)  when starting out with a young family, as they try to keep costs lower while covering many liabilities.

Term Life Insurance plans include:

  • The death benefit coverage continues for temporary terms that are set in periods such as 5, 10, or 20 years; or a lifetime level term to age 100.
  • Other periods can run to age 65, 75.
  • The premium remains constant for these terms.
  • The low cost of insurance for a certain level of death benefit is the essence of this plan, generally with less emphasis on a cash value, though some Term to age 100 plans have cash-out options, and some can be quickly paid up, while some also offer tax-deferral options.
  • You can buy more term coverage for less premium, which does increase upon each term period renewal (for example a five-year term rises in cost in the sixth and eleventh year and so on).
  • Term insurance usually can generally be converted to Permanent Life Insurance coverage without medical underwriting, but check with your advisor about renewal and conversion options when you plan to buy a policy.

2. Permanent Life insurance continues to the time of the decease of the insured or alternatively pays one a level or an increasing lump sum at a certain age of maturity (usually age 100), or offers cash value or tax-deferral or premium pre-payment incentives. Where there are cash values associated with a Permanent plan, the amount of risk is reduced for the insurer. This often allows the cost of the insurance to be lowered as the increasing cash funds accumulating in the plan, increasingly reduce by replacing, the level of insurance needed.

Permanent Life Insurance plans include:

  • Whole Life, offering a level premium and a cash value table in the policy guaranteed by the insurer;
  • Limited Premium Payment, where the policy can be paid up fully in a specific period of time (such as over 10 or 20 years; or paid up at age 65).
  • Endowment Life where the cash value grows to a level equal to the insurance coverage, and

Note: Life insurance premiums vary according to the policy type. In some cases, paying a little more premium offers enhanced benefits. Tax-deferral strategies may change due to legislation.


How much life insurance should I purchase?

Determining, how much life insurance is necessary for your family’s financial security will require an objective viewpoint as you assess the following:

Evaluate the death benefit that you need.

Your advisor can assess the death benefit you need, by using a mathematical calculation that is referred to as a “capital needs analysis”. You may want to have enough capital to pay for your funeral, final taxes in your estate, outstanding loans or a remaining mortgage, and/or your credit card debt.

If you earn an income and support dependents, you may need to provide a significant amount of money to invest, from which your family can earn an investment income to provide a quality lifestyle. Life insurance can also provide enough money to cover a child’s education or top up the potential retirement income needs of a spouse if a breadwinner dies.


Where there are two spouses providing an income for the family, many couples purchase enough life insurance to reciprocally protect the potential income loss of one or both income sources, by covering both spouses appropriately.

Business Owners have special insurance needs

In many families, one spouse is employed, and another is self-employed. If one spouse owns a sole proprietorship business, he or she may need to consider income replacement insurance which can create a replacement paycheck in case you become disabled. There may be business-related debts and expenses, which if not paid, can create liabilities for the family.

If you are in a business partnership, you may want to look at establishing a buy-sell agreement, and/or succession planning facilitated by life insurance capital if you or a partner die; or income replacement insurance if you or a partner are disabled and can no longer work at your business.

Critical Illness Insurance

Many are also using Critical Illness insurance for personal or business planning, which can offer capital solutions if one becomes critically disabled. Once you are certain how much you need, your advisor can offer quotes and several plans most suited to your circumstance.

Why is life insurance coverage motivated by love?

Look through a wider lens to see life insurance at work. Life insurance protects you against income loss and the adverse effect that less income can have on your family if one were to die or have a disability.

As you build on that foundation by creating your assets and net worth, you may need to reassess your level of coverage. Caring for others is at the root of life insurance planning.

You have family responsibilities. Adequate coverage allows a surviving spouse and surviving family to maintain their current lifestyle.

You can support a stay-at-home parent caring for your children. If one parent’s income is currently relied on to provide all living expenses, the death of that individual may cause financial insecurity for all family members, particularly when there will be a stay-at-home parent caring for the children.

Life insurance protects children. The coverage needed will be affected by:

  • the number of children and their ages
  • educational expenses of the children
  • the current value of your assets
  • your current income
  • debt accumulation
  • your future employment goals versus stay-at-home parenting
  • your overall financial goals

You can place young children as secondary or contingent beneficiaries; thus allowing them to receive the death benefit if your spouse if the primary beneficiary predeceases them. A trust can manage funds on behalf of the children. It can direct investing the proceeds of the death benefit to create guardian income for loved ones.

Continue coverage throughout college or university. When children go to college, many of us tap into our savings to help meet their tuition and housing expenses. We may purchase a child’s first car, or pay him/her income for one or more years. If you die without providing continuing support, your young adult child may need to quit seeking a higher education due to a shortage of funds.

Protect your income in case of a disability. Have you thought about how becoming ill or injured could affect your children’s financial security? Would your income be reduced, placing them under duress? Disability insurance is designed to replace approximately 70% of your pre-disability income and is especially necessary for the self-employed.