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Who is eligibility to open a TFSA?

You may open a TFSA if you are a Canadian resident who has reached age 18.

Note: The age of majority is 19 for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, which may delay the opening of a TFSA. However, the accumulation of contribution room will start at age 18.

TFSAs may not be opened as joint accounts—government rules permit only individual accounts. And, as a registered account, a TFSA cannot be opened under a business name.

What are the annual contribution limits?

The 2013 contribution limit is $5500. The annual limit for 2009-2012 was $5,000. This annual limit will rise along with inflation in future years, in $500 increments. You can make contributions anytime during the year. Additionally, there is no lifetime limit on the amount of your TFSA contributions. And, you are not required to have earned income to accumulate contribution room.

The CRA will track your contribution room. The CRA intends to report this amount to individuals on their Notice of Assessment and through the “My Account” function on the CRA web site.

Can I carry forward my contribution limit?

If you can’t make your maximum contribution one year, you can make up that portion of the contribution in later years by carrying it forward. There is no limit on how much contribution room you can accumulate.

For example, if you contribute $3,000 to your TFSA in 2009, your contribution room for 2010 will be $7,000 ($2,000 carried forward from 2009 plus $5,000 for 2010).

The amount of your unused contribution room is shown on your federal Notice of Assessment.

What happens if I over-contribute to my TFSA?

If you make a TFSA contribution beyond the maximum allowable amount it is considered an over-contribution. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will assess a penalty of 1% per month on your excess contribution.

How can I make withdrawals from my TFSA?

You can withdraw money from your account at any time, for any purpose. Withdrawals can be made tax-free and will not be added to your income for the year.

Can I transfers between TFSAs?

You may open as many TFSAs as you wish, as long as you adhere to your contribution limit. You are free to transfer your TFSAs between financial institutions at any time without being subject to tax, although there may be a transfer out or other fees. You can also move some or all of your money between eligible investments within your TFSA.

Will there be an effect on government benefits for having a TFSA?

Investment income earned and the amount of TFSA withdrawals are not included as income for tax purposes, which means that they will not affect your eligibility for Federal income–tested government benefits and tax credits such as Old Age Security (OAS) or the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit.

How do capital losses work within a TFSA?

As investment income and capital gains within a TFSA are not taxed, any capital losses generated in the account can’t be used against taxable gains outside the account

What are the implications of transferring TFSA assets in a separation or divorce?

TFSA assets may be transferred between spouses or common-law partners upon marriage or relationship breakdown. However, it’s important to understand the implications of transferring TFSA funds; the spouse who gives some or all of their TFSA funds (due to the divorce/separation agreement) will lose his or her TFSA accumulation room that they’ve acquired since the launch of TFSA because the transferred amount will not be added back to contribution room.

On the other hand, if a plan holder withdraws assets from the TFSA before giving the funds (due to the divorce/separation agreement), then the amount of the withdrawal will be added back to the contribution room of the transferring spouse for the following year, allowing the plan holder to continue to benefit from tax-free investing. The receiving spouse will be able to contribute to their TFSA, but only to the extent that they have their own contribution room.