Introduction and overview
Main requirements for applying for Financial Hardship Unlocking
- Money must be locked-in and you must be the owner
- Money must be subject to the Pension Benefits Act
- The application form
- One application per year, per category, per account, per eligible individual
- Deadlines and timelines
- Minimum and maximum amounts you may apply for
When your application is approved
Filling out FHU Form 1 – Medical Expenses
- Withholding tax and other deductions
- Entitlement to other government benefits
- Loss of creditor protection
- General information about Form 1
- Part 1: information about yourself and your locked-in account
- Part 2: medical expenses, including renovation expenses
- Part 3: certification by the owner of the locked-in account
- Part 4: consent of the owner’s spouse to the withdrawal
- Part 5: statement of a physician or dentist
Introduction and overviewThis User Guide is intended to assist owners of locked-in accounts who wish to apply to withdraw money from locked-in accounts because of financial hardship, in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 909, R.R.O. 1990, under the Ontario Pension Benefits Act.
Please note that this User Guide is a guideline only. It is meant to provide guidance to individuals who are filling out applications. Where this guideline conflicts with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 28 (FSCO Act), the Pension Benefits Act R.S.O. 1990, c. P.8. or Regulation 909, R.R.O. 1990 (Regulation), the FSCO Act, Pension Benefits Act or Regulation govern.
There are four categories of financial hardship:
- medical expenses;
- arrears of rent or debt secured on a principal residence (such as a mortgage);
- payment of first and last months’ rent; and
- low expected income.
This User Guide is only for category 1 - medical expenses. If you want to make an application during this year under one of the other categories, you must make a separate application. For applications under other categories, please refer to the appropriate User Guide on the FSCO website.
Effective January 1, 2014, all applications for financial hardship withdrawals must be made to the financial institution which holds and administers your locked-in account. A financial institution may be one of the following institutions:
- life insurance company
- credit union
- caisse populaire
- trust company
If you have invested the money in your locked-in account through a financial advisor, you should ask your advisor if you should make your application through him/her, or directly to the financial institution that holds your locked-in account.
You cannot make your application to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). FSCO no longer has the authority to process these applications.
Your financial institution is responsible for answering questions and providing information to you regarding your application.
Main requirements for applying for Financial Hardship Unlocking
Money must be in a locked-in account and you must be the owner
There are three different types of locked-in accounts:
- Locked-in retirement accounts (LIRAs).
- Life income funds (LIFs). There are two kinds of LIFs: Old LIFs and New LIFs.
- Locked-in retirement funds (LRIFs).
To apply for financial hardship withdrawal, your money must be in one of these accounts. If your money is still in your pension plan, you cannot apply to withdraw money on the basis of financial hardship.
You must be the owner of the locked-in account to apply for financial hardship. The locked-in account must be in your name, not in your spouse’s name. If you are not sure whether you are the owner of the account, ask your financial institution or financial advisor.
Money must be subject to the Pension Benefits Act
The money in your locked-in account must be subject to Ontario pension law, not federal pension law or the pension law of another province. If the money is not subject to Ontario pension law, the financial institution must refuse your application. If you are not sure whether the money in your locked-in account is subject to Ontario pension law, ask your financial institution.
The application form
You must apply on the forms approved by the Superintendent of Financial Services. The application for medical expenses must be made on Form FHU 1 for the year in which you are applying.
Please contact your financial institution for an application form. Forms and other information about financial hardship unlocking may also be accessed on FSCO’s website.
If an application is signed in 2019, the 2019 form must be used. You cannot use a previous year’s form.
One application per year, per category, per account, per eligible individual
You may only make one application from your locked-in account per eligible individual each calendar year under the medical expenses category. An eligible individual is one who: (i) is suffering from an illness or physical disability; and (ii) is the owner, the owner’s spouse or a dependant of the owner or the owner’s spouse.
The key date is the date your financial institution receives your complete application, along with any required accompanying documents. This could be the date the completed application is submitted in person, or the date it is received by mail, fax or electronically.
Deadlines and timelines
There are a number of important deadlines and timelines which must be met:
- 60 day time limit for submitting the application: Once you sign the application (and your spouse signs the consent, if applicable), you have 60 days to submit it to the financial institution. If you submit it after 60 days from the date you signed it, you will have to fill out another application.
- 30 day time limit for payment by financial institutions: The financial institution must review the application and determine if it meets the requirements in the Regulation for the medical expenses category of financial hardship. If the requirements are met, the financial institution must approve the application and make the payment within 30 days from the day it received the completed application.
Minimum and maximum amounts you may apply for
For all applications, the minimum amount you can apply for is $500.00. If you apply for less than $500.00, the application must be refused.
The maximum amount for the medical expenses category is described later on in this User Guide. You cannot apply for an amount greater than the maximum amount to which you are entitled; if you do apply for an amount greater than the maximum, the financial institution should advise you to amend the application.
A financial institution is not permitted under the Regulation to pay an amount greater than the maximum the owner is entitled to.
Please refer to the section below (Part 2, question 3) for more information about the maximum amount you may withdraw for medical expenses.
When your application is approved
The money must be paid in one lump sum. It cannot be paid monthly or in any other manner. It cannot be transferred to another tax-deferred account, such as a registered retirement savings plan or a registered retirement income fund.
Withholding tax and other deductions
The amount you are approved for will be reduced by an amount withheld for income tax. This is because when money is paid out of an unlocked account, financial institutions are required to withhold a certain amount of money for income tax and pay that amount to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
In addition, your financial institution may charge an administrative fee for your application, which will be deducted from the amount that was approved for you.
For example, if you apply and are approved for a withdrawal of $20,000.00, the financial institution must withhold approximately 30 percent of that amount, which is $6,000.00, for income tax and pay it to CRA. If the financial institution charges you a $50.00 fee, that amount will also be deducted. Therefore, you will receive $13,950.00.
If you want to receive a greater amount in cash than what you would have received after deductions, you should apply to withdraw a greater amount. But you cannot apply to withdraw an amount greater than the maximum to which you are entitled under the Regulation or greater than the amount in your account.
Entitlement to other government benefits
When you withdraw money from a locked-in account, that amount could be considered as income. This could affect your eligibility for benefits under a government program, such as social assistance. If you have a question as to whether this could apply to you, you should contact the government agency or department that administers the program or provides these benefits.
Loss of creditor protection
Money in locked-in accounts cannot be seized by creditors. However, if you withdraw money from a locked-in account for financial hardship, it will no longer be protected from creditors and may be seized.
The financial institution must advise each owner about the purpose for which personal information is collected, used or disclosed in accordance with any applicable law.
Filling out FHU Form 1 - Medical Expenses
General Information about Form 1
Under the medical expenses category, you may make one application during a calendar year for each person who is suffering from an illness or physical disability provided that person is:
- the owner of the account;
- the owner’s spouse; or
- a dependant of the owner or the owner’s spouse.
A physician or dentist must verify the person’s medical condition in writing.
If you have already applied under the medical expenses category for a particular person earlier in the calendar year, you cannot apply again for that person until the next calendar year. You may apply during the same calendar year for a different person but you must use a separate Form 1. An application is considered to have been made in the year in which the financial institution receives the completed application.
You may make more than one application for a withdrawal from the same locked-in account under different categories of financial hardship in the same year but you must use different forms.
There are three types of medical expenses that are covered under this category:
- expenses for medical or dental goods and services;
- expenses for renovations that have been made in the past, or will be made in the future, to the owner’s or dependant’s principal residence, as long as the renovations are necessary as a result of the illness or physical disability of the owner, the owner’s spouse, or their dependant; and
- any additional expenses that were incurred in the construction of the owner’s or dependant’s principal residence, as long as the construction was necessary as a result of the illness or physical disability of the owner, the owner’s spouse, or their dependant.
Medical expenses may include expenses that were incurred in the past as long as the physician or dentist certifies that the goods and services are or were necessary for the person’s treatment. Medical expenses also include expenses for a person suffering from a mental illness.
A principal residence is a person’s primary place of residence. It is the housing unit he or she ordinarily lives in during the calendar year in which the applicant signs the application. It can be a house, a condominium unit, an apartment or other unit in a multi-residential property, a non-seasonal mobile home, a trailer or a houseboat. A person can have only one principal residence for the purpose of this application.
To be covered under the medical expenses category, the principal residence must be the principal residence of the owner or the dependant. If the owner’s spouse is living in a different principal residence, then the owner cannot apply for renovations to the spouse’s residence.
There is a difference between renovations to an existing principal residence (second bullet above) and additional expenses for the construction of a new residence (third bullet above). For an existing principal residence, medical expenses covered are those already incurred or those that will be incurred for renovations. Examples include a ramp for wheelchair access, installation of bars in a bath tub or shower stall, and a stair-lift.
However, for the construction of a principal residence, only past expenses that have already been incurred can be covered under medical expenses. Future expenses for a principal residence that has not yet been built cannot be included. For example, if a dependant has moved into a new residence and a wheelchair ramp has already been built for his use, that expense can be claimed. But if the dependant has not yet moved in, it is not his or her principal residence and that construction expense cannot be claimed at this time.
Part 1 – Information about yourself and your locked-in account
Question 1: Fill in the information about yourself in each box.
Question 2: Fill in the name of the financial institution that holds your locked-in account (for example, the name of the bank, insurance company, credit union) and the number of the account. The only number in the box should be the number of the account from which you wish to withdraw money.
Information about your spouse
Question 3: If you have a spouse on the date you sign this application, fill in the information about your spouse in each box.
“Spouse” is defined in the Pension Benefits Act as either of two persons who:
- are married to each other, or
- are not married to each other and are living together in a conjugal relationship,
i. continuously for a period of not less than three years, or
ii. in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the parents of a child as set out in section 4 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.
If you have a spouse and you are living separate and apart from your spouse due to a breakdown in your spousal relationship, your spouse is not required to consent to the withdrawal. However, you must still fill in the required information about your spouse in question 3.
Just because you and your spouse are living in different residences on the date the application is signed does not automatically mean you are not spouses for the purpose of this application. Your living separate and apart must be because there has been a breakdown in the spousal relationship. If one spouse is living elsewhere because of his/her work, or because he/she is looking after a relative or friend, or for health reasons, or for other reasons that are not related to their spousal relationship, it does not mean you are living separate and apart for the purpose of this application.
It is possible that you may have “more than one spouse”. That is, you may be separated from your wife or husband although you are still married, but you may be living common law with another person who meets the definition of spouse in the Pension Benefits Act. In this case, you should fill in the information about the spouse with whom you are living when you apply – in this example, your common law spouse. The money can only be withdrawn if that person provides his or her consent (see Part 4).
Part 2 – Medical expenses, including renovation expenses
Question 1: Who has the illness or physical disability? You must check either “Yourself” (the owner of the locked-in account), “Your spouse”, or “Your dependant or your spouse’s dependant”.
For the purpose of this application, a “dependant” includes any person who was dependent on the owner of the locked-in account or on the owner’s spouse for support at some time during the calendar year in which the application is signed, or during the calendar year before. A dependant does not have to live at the same location as the owner; for example, the dependant may be living in a short or long-term care home.
If you checked, “Your dependant or your spouse’s dependant”, fill in the information about him or her in each box.
Question 2: Other than this Application, have you applied to withdraw money from this locked-in account based on medical expenses for the person identified in this Application at any time during 2019? If you answered ‘yes’, you cannot apply again under this category for this person this year.
Question 3: What is the maximum amount you may withdraw?
The maximum amount you may withdraw is the smaller of the amounts entered in boxes 3a and 3b.
The amount in box 3a for 2019 is $28,700.
In box 3b, fill in the total amount of medical expenses already incurred for the person who has the illness or physical disability, plus an estimate of the total amount of medical expenses for that person for the next 12 months (if any). Medical expenses include expenses for renovations to the person’s principal residence as a result of the person’s illness or physical disability (see above for more details).
Enter the smaller amount in box 3c. This is the maximum amount that you may apply to withdraw under this category.
Alice’s medical expenses for 2019 were $20,000 and she is not claiming for additional expenses for the next 12 months, so the amount she would enter in box 3b is $20,000. The smaller amount is $20,000, and she must enter that amount in box 3c.
Brittany’s medical expenses for 2019 were $15,000 but she is claiming an additional $15,000 in expenses for the next 12 months, so the total amount she would enter in box 3b is $30,000. The smaller amount is $28,700, and she must enter that amount in box 3c.
Question 4: How much money are you applying to withdraw from this locked-in account?
You do not have to apply for the maximum amount you are entitled to.
In the examples above, Alice can decide to take the maximum, so she enters $20,000 in box 4. Brittany decides she does not need the entire amount she is entitled to, so she enters $18,000.00 in box 4.
You cannot apply for an amount that is:
- greater than the amount in your locked-in account as of the date you sign this application;
- greater than the maximum amount you are allowed to withdraw (box 3c); or
- less than $500.00.
Remember that the amount you apply for will be reduced by withholding tax and may be reduced further by an administrative fee.
Question 5: What principal residence has been or will be renovated?
If your medical expenses include renovations to your principal residence or your dependant’s residence, fill in the information about that residence in each box.
You must provide a statement from a physician or dentist regarding the medical expenses you are claiming. Please refer to Part 5 for more information.
You must include copies of receipts or estimates to account for all medical expenses you are claiming. This includes all past goods and services that have been purchased to treat the person’s illness or physical disability, and an estimate of the total amount of the person’s expected medical expenses for the 12 months after the date you sign the application.
Part 3 – Certification by the owner of the locked-in account
You must sign and date the certification in Part 3 in the presence of an adult witness, who must be 18 years of age or older. The witness cannot be your spouse or dependant. An employee of your financial institution may be a witness.
Once the application is signed, you have 60 days to submit it to the financial institution.
Certifications regarding spousal status:
You must certify certain information regarding your spousal status on the date you sign the application. In Part 3, you must check only one of four boxes:
- You have a spouse and your spouse consents to the withdrawal of money from the locked-in account. (If you check this box, you will need your spouse to complete Part 4.)
- You have a spouse but you and your spouse are living separate and apart as a result of a breakdown in your spousal relationship.
- You have a spouse, but “none of the money in your locked-in account is derived, directly or indirectly, from a pension benefit provided in respect of your past or current employment”.
This refers to a situation where you are seeking to withdraw money from a locked in account, and this money did not come from your pension but from someone else’s pension plan, such as your former spouse.
For example, as a result of a divorce, John was required to pay a portion of his pension to Jane and the money was paid into Jane’s locked-in account. Jane subsequently married Bob and now wants to apply to withdraw money from her locked-in account for financial hardship. Since the money was earned by John, Jane’s current spouse Bob is not required to consent to the application. John is no longer Jane’s spouse, so his consent is no longer required.
- You do not have a spouse.
By signing the application, you are also certifying that:
- all the information in the application and any accompanying documents is accurate and complete; and
- you have not previously applied to withdraw money for medical expenses for the person you identified as having the illness or physical disability in this calendar year from this locked-in account.
Part 4 – Consent of the owner’s spouse to the withdrawal
If you have a spouse on the day you sign the certification, you may only withdraw money from your locked-in account if your spouse consents to the application. Your spouse’s consent is not required if:
- you and your spouse are living separate and apart as a result of a breakdown in your spousal relationship; or
- the money in your locked-in account came from the pension plan of another person, such as your former spouse.
If your spouse wishes to consent, your spouse must fill in Part 4 and sign and date it in the presence of a witness who is at least 18 years of age. The witness must also sign Part 4. An employee of the financial institution may be the witness. The owner of the locked-in account cannot be the witness.
If your spouse is not sure about the legal consequences of signing the consent, he or she should seek legal advice. Your spouse is under no obligation to sign. But if spousal consent is required and your spouse does not consent, the financial institution must refuse your application.
Your spouse must indicate that he or she understands that:
- the owner is making an application to withdraw money from the locked-in account, and that the owner cannot withdraw the money from the locked-in account without your spouse’s consent;
- as long as this money is in the locked-in account, your spouse may have a right to a share of this money if there is a breakdown in your spousal relationship or if you die; and
- if any money is withdrawn from the locked-in account, your spouse may lose any right that he or she has to a share of the money withdrawn.
If the financial institution is not satisfied that the spouse understands what he or she is signing, it may refuse the application. The financial institution may request proof of the spouse’s identity and spousal status.
Part 5 – Statement of a physician or dentist
You cannot fill in this part.
You must provide a statement regarding the medical expenses you are claiming that is signed and dated by either a physician licensed to practice medicine in Canada, or a dentist licensed to practice dentistry in Canada. A “physician” does not include chiropractors, physiotherapists, psychologists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, cosmeticians, and others. The physician or dentist may either fill in Part 5 of this application or provide a letter containing the required information, including a statement that he or she is licensed to practice in Canada and their registration or license number.
The physician or dentist must:
- identify the person who is the subject of the application and has or had an illness or physical disability; and
- (a) confirm that certain medical or dental goods or services are or were necessary for that person’s treatment; and/or
(b) confirm that certain renovations are or were necessary to the principal residence as a result of the person’s illness or physical disability; and/or
(c) confirm that additional expenses incurred in the construction of a principal residence were made necessary by the person’s illness or physical disability.
The physician or dentist’s statement must be complete and must not be signed or dated more than 12 months before the financial institution receives it. If the statement is too old, you will have to provide another statement with the correct date or your application will not be approved.