The Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) in Detail‍

The Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) in Detail‍
April 25, 2024

Are you a resident of Kelowna dreaming of buying your first home?  Saving for a down payment can feel like a daunting task, especially in today's competitive housing market.  The good news is, the Canadian government introduced the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA) in its 2022 budget to help eligible Canadians, like yourself, reach their homeownership goals faster.

What is the FHSA?

The FHSA is a registered savings plan designed to specifically help first-time homebuyers save for a down payment. It combines features of both a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).

Here's a quick breakdown of the key features:

Who is Eligible for the FHSA?

To open an FHSA, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of Canada as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 71 (or the age of majority in your province of residence).
  • Be a first-time homebuyer, meaning you haven't owned or lived in a home in the year you open the FHSA or the four preceding years.

Top Benefits of the FHSA

The FHSA offers several advantages for aspiring homeowners:

  1. Tax-Sheltered Growth: Contributions and investment earnings within the FHSA grow tax-free, accelerating your down payment savings compared to a traditional savings account.
  2. Tax Deductible Contributions: Lower your tax bill or increase your tax return by claiming contributions as a deduction on your income tax return.
  3. Flexibility: If your plans change and you decide not to buy a home, you can transfer funds from your FHSA to an RRSP or RRIF on a tax-deferred basis.
  4. Combine with Home Buyers' Plan (HBP): Maximize your down payment by potentially using both the FHSA (up to $40,000) and the HBP (up to $35,000) for the same qualifying home purchase.

Contributions and Deductions Explained

Here's a closer look at contribution limits and deductions:

  • Lifetime and Annual Limits: You can contribute a maximum of $8,000 per year to your FHSA, with a lifetime limit of $40,000.
  • Carry-Forward Contributions: Unused contribution room from previous years can be carried forward, allowing you to contribute up to $8,000 in a single year if you haven't maxed out your contributions in previous years.
  • Tax Deductible: Contributions can be deducted from your total taxable income, potentially reducing your tax burden. Be aware that contributions made within the first 60 days of a calendar year cannot be deducted on the previous year's tax return.

Using Your FHSA for a Down Payment

To withdraw funds from your FHSA tax-free, you must meet specific requirements:

  • Be a first-time homebuyer and a resident of Canada at the time of withdrawal.
  • Have a written agreement to purchase or build a qualifying home in Canada before October 1 of the year following the withdrawal.
  • Intend to occupy the qualifying home as your principal residence within one year of purchase or construction.

Important Note: When you withdraw funds to use for a down payment, the contribution room in your FHSA is not reinstated.

FHSA vs. Home Buyers' Plan (HBP)

Both the FHSA and HBP are government programs designed to help Canadians achieve homeownership. However, there are some key distinctions between the two:

Withdrawal Requirements

  • FHSA: Withdrawals are tax-free, but they don't need to be repaid.
  • HBP: Withdrawals from your RRSP under the HBP act like a loan. You have 15 years to repay the funds withdrawn, or they will be taxed as income.

Impact on Retirement Savings

  • FHSA: Contributions are made with after-tax dollars, so they don't affect your RRSP contribution room. This means you can still contribute the maximum amount to your RRSP for retirement savings.
  • HBP: Since you're borrowing from your RRSP with the HBP, it reduces your overall contribution room for retirement savings.

Contribution Limits

  • FHSA: $8,000 annually, with a $40,000 lifetime limit.
  • HBP: A one-time withdrawal of up to $35,000 per person. Couples can potentially access a combined total of $70,000.

Who Should Choose Which?

The best option for you depends on your individual circumstances. Here's a general guideline:

Choose the FHSA if

  • You have a longer time horizon to save for a down payment (up to 15 years).
  • You prioritize maximizing your RRSP contribution room for retirement savings.
  • You're unsure if you'll need the funds withdrawn from your RRSP within 15 years (avoiding the HBP repayment requirement).

Choose the HBP if

  • You need a larger sum of money upfront for your down payment (up to $35,000).
  • You're comfortable repaying the borrowed funds within the 15-year timeframe.
  • You have a good handle on your retirement savings goals and are confident you can make up for the reduced RRSP contribution room.

Additional Considerations

  • You can combine the FHSA with the HBP to maximize your down payment potential, accessing up to $75,000 in total.
  • Speak with a financial advisor to discuss your specific situation and determine which program aligns best with your financial goals.


The introduction of the FHSA offers a valuable tool for first-time homebuyers in Kelowna and across Canada. Understanding the benefits, eligibility requirements, and how it compares to existing programs like the HBP will empower you to make informed decisions as you save for your dream home.


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