Any money transferred from an Ontario registered pension plan into an Ontario locked-in account (LIRA, LIF or LRIF) must remain "locked-in" and can only be used to provide retirement income. There are exceptions which provide special access to locked-in money. There are separate rules for special access in certain situations of financial hardship and in certain situations of non-hardship. The rules for special access in non-hardship situations are set out below.
Special access may be made in the following non-hardship situations, by completing and filing an application with the financial institution holding your locked-in account using the specified FSCO pension form.
Special access has been expanded and applications can be made based on one or more of the following criteria:
- your life expectancy has been shortened to two years or less (use Form 5)
- you are at least 55 years old and the total value of the funds in all of your locked-in accounts is less than 40% of the Year's Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) (use Form 5)
- amounts transferred into your locked-in account exceed federal Income Tax Act limits (use Form 5)
- you are a non-resident of Canada and 24 months have passed since the date of your departure from Canada (use Form 5)
- after December 31, 2010, you transferred money into an Ontario life income fund that is governed by the requirements of Schedule 1.1 and, within 60 days of this transfer, you want to withdraw or transfer up to 50% of the total money that was transferred to the Schedule 1.1 LIF (use Form 5.2)
Please note applications using Form 5 and Form 5.2 must be made directly to the financial institution that administers your Ontario locked-in account, not to the Superintendent of Financial Services.
Important points to remember:
- The creditor protection provisions of the Pension Benefits Act no longer apply to any money withdrawn from an Ontario locked-in account and the money may be seized by your creditors.
- Money withdrawn from your Ontario locked-in account is subject to income tax, which may be withheld at the time the withdrawal is made.
- Before you make an application in Ontario for special access to money in your locked-in account, it's important to verify that your locked-in account is subject to Ontario law, rather than federal legislation or the law of another province or territory. If you worked for a federally regulated industry such as banking, telephone, television or airline transportation, for example, your locked-in account may be subject to federal law. If you're not sure, check with the bank, insurance company or other institution that administers your account. If their records indicate that your account is not subject to Ontario law, the financial institution cannot release any money from your locked-in account based on the Ontario unlocking rules.
- Where your spouse’s signed consent is required, you must include their signed consent on your application to withdraw money from an Ontario locked-in account except where you are applying to withdraw amounts that exceed federal Income Tax Act limits. The spouse's signature must be obtained on a date not more than 60 days before the date your financial institution receives your completed application.
- Your completed, signed and dated application must be received by the financial institution that administers your Ontario locked-in account within 60 days of the date it is signed.
- Withdrawing money from your locked-in account may affect your eligibility for certain government benefits, such as social assistance.
Details about making an application for special access are provided in A Guide to Applying for Special Access.
A word of caution: