Ads keep this website free for you. does not research or endorse any product or service appearing in ads on this site.  Before making a major financial decision you  should consult a qualified professional.

Which Investments Inside Registered Accounts?
Canadian Tax and
Financial Information Home

What's New

Links & Resources

Site Map

Need an accounting, tax or financial advisor? Look in our Directory.  Use above search box to easily find your topic!   Stay Connected with!
What's New
Personal Tax
Sales Taxes
Financial Freedom
Financial Planning
Registered Accounts
Real Estate
US Tax Tips
British Columbia
Atlantic Provinces
Federal Budget
Prov/Terr Budgets
Statistics etc.
Site Map
Advertise With Us
Contact Us/About Us
Links & Resources
RRSPs RRIFs and TFSAs   ->   Stocks, Bonds etc. -> Investments inside vs outside the RRSP

Which Investments Should be Held Inside vs Outside Registered Accounts?

If you have investments both inside and outside of your RRSP, RRIF or TFSA,  investments with income taxed at the highest rates should be held inside the registered accounts.  Income earned in a registered account is not taxable while it remains in the account, including interest, dividends, and capital gains, so can grow tax free until the money is withdrawn.  There may be tax withheld from dividends received from some foreign investments, but not from dividends received from US corporations received in an RRSP or RRIF/LIF.

Best Held in a Registered Account

If you own any of the following investments, they should be held inside your registered account, because 100% of the income is taxed when they are held in non-registered accounts:

bullet cash
bullet t-bills
bullet GICs
bullet commercial paper
bullet bankers acceptances
bullet money market funds
bullet bonds
bullet high dividend-paying foreign stocks (in RRSP or RRIF/LIF, not TFSA, due to withholding tax)

The only one of the above investments that we hold long-term in our investment accounts is foreign stocks, because over the long term, cash and near cash at today's low interest rates don't keep up with inflation.

Suitable for Registered or Non-Registered Accounts

The following investments are suitable for inside or outside of your registered accounts:

bullet foreign stocks paying low or no dividends
bullet low or non-dividend-paying exchange-traded funds (ETFs) holding stocks
bullet Canadian non-dividend paying stocks
bullet Canadian dividend-paying stocks

Withholding Tax on Foreign Dividends

There is no withholding tax deducted from dividends received on shares of U.S. corporations held in an RRSP, RRIF, and other "retirement accounts" such as LIFs and LRIFs, as per the Tax Treaty between Canada and the U.S., Article XXI paragraph 2(a).  Sometimes, withholding tax (at varying rates, depending on the country) is deducted from:

bulletdividends paid by foreign non-U.S. corporations, even when they are in a registered account.
bulletdividends paid by Limited Partnerships (LPs), including Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs)

These withholding taxes paid by the registered account are not recoverable.

If shares in U.S. or other foreign corporations are held in a non-registered account or a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) or Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), withholding tax will be deducted from dividends received.  These accounts are not considered "retirement accounts".  When the withholding tax is paid from a non-registered account, it can be partially or fully recovered via the foreign tax credit.  Withholding taxes paid by the TFSA, RDSP or RESP are not recoverable.

Withholding Tax on Dividends from Limited Partnerships

See the following articles about the withholding tax on dividends from Limited Partnerships:

Answers to your tangled tax questions by John Heinzl, Globe and Mail

Best Investments For Non-Registered Accounts

If you have investments outside of your registered accounts, your first choices should be

bullet Canadian dividend-paying stocks
bullet ETFs holding Canadian dividend-paying stocks
bullet stocks or ETFs where the majority of the return is in capital gains

Dividends from Canadian corporations and capital gains from any source attract the least tax.  There is a dividend tax credit which reduces tax on Canadian dividends, and only 50% of a capital gain is taxable.  The marginal tax rate for dividends eligible for the enhanced dividend tax credit is almost always lower than the marginal tax rate for capital gains.

For taxpayers in the lower tax brackets in many provinces, receiving eligible dividends will reduce their taxes payable.

For some higher income taxpayers in a few provinces, it may be more beneficial to receive capital gains than eligible dividends.

Every province and territory has different tax rates, and each person's situation differs.  Use our calculators to compare different scenarios, and see our tables of marginal tax rates to find your marginal tax rate on different types of investment income.

See also:

Tax Treatment of Different Investments

Historical Investment Returns on Stocks, Bonds, T-Bills

Converting Your RRSP to a RRIF

Tax Tip:  Arrange your investments so that the ones which would attract the most tax are held inside your registered accounts.

Revised: October 26, 2023


Copyright © 2002 Boat Harbour Investments Ltd. All Rights Reserved.  See Reproduction of information from

Facebook  | Twitter  |  See What’s New, stay connected with by RSS or Email
The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.  Each person's situation differs, and a professional advisor can assist you in using the information on this web site to your best advantage. 
Please see our legal disclaimer regarding the use of information on our site, and our Privacy Policy regarding information that may be collected from visitors to our site.