Old Age Security Deferral: Opting Out Retroactively

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As of July 1, 2013, where receipt of Old Age Security (OAS) is delayed, the monthly pension is increased by a factor of 0.6% for each month deferred, to a maximum of 36% (60 months, commencing receipt at age 70). This option may be especially desirable for those whose OAS would be entirely clawed back due to high income. For 2019, every $1 of income in excess of $77,580 results in a $0.15 claw-back. While it is best to do the analysis and make the decision appropriately from the outset, the following considers what happened when those opportunities were missed.

In a January 31, 2019 Federal Court case, at issue was whether an individual could apply for his OAS pension to be cancelled slightly more than one year after it had begun in order to benefit from the voluntary deferral option.

The individual applied for OAS on March 1, 2013. His first payment was received in February 2014, the month after he turned 65.

In April of 2015 he realized that his entire OAS pension for the previous year was lost due to high earnings, and also that recent changes allowed deferral of receipt in exchange for higher payments. As such, a request to cancel it was submitted.

An individual has the ability to cancel a pension within six months of the commencement (i.e. the first payment). There is no specific provision that allows for an extension to this time limit.

The taxpayer cited various reasons why the application was not made in time, primarily in connection with his argument that the Government did not provide timely notification of this new possibility. In particular, he noted that he did not receive the letter sent out to those eligible to begin receipt in 2013 which explained the changes. Also, no notification of the new option was included in the application form nor in the letter he received advising him that his application was accepted.

Taxpayer loses

Since there was no provision allowing for an extension of time, the Court was not able to assist the taxpayer. The Court did, however, question whether the matter should have been dealt with under other provisions which allow the Government to take remedial action for denied benefits resulting from erroneous advice or administrative error.

ACTION ITEM: Determine whether it is best to defer receiving OAS prior to applying. If an error has been made, consider whether it was due to error in government advice or administration.