Accessing and Optimizing Pensions and Public Benefits: Ontario

Federal Public Benefits for Seniors

Both Canada and Ontario have several programs in place to assist low-income seniors. Each program has specific eligibility and application requirements.

Canada Pension Plan (CPP)

The Canada Pension Plan is an earnings related social insurance program run by the federal government. Adults, 18 and over and legally employed, pay into the CPP, and receive the benefits later in life.

When Do I Receive My CPP?

When you retire (see below), become disabled, or die, monthly CPP benefits are paid back to you or your family,only if you apply to Service Canada.

  • If you are between ages 60 and 65 and have stopped working (you earn less than a government specified amount in the month your benefit begins), you may apply for CPP.
    • This rule is being eliminated beginning in 2012 and you can collect CPP between age 60 and age 65 and continue to work.
  • If you apply for CPP before age 65 you will lose eligibility for CPP disability benefits.
  • If you apply for CPP before age 65, your pension will be reduced by 0.5% per month up to a maximum of 30%.
    • Starting in 2012, your CPP will be further reduced, for each month before age 65 that you start receiving your CPP payments.
  • If you are 65 or older, your CPP will be increased for each month after age 65 (and up to age 70) that you delay getting your CPP payments.

How Much Money Will I Get From CPP, and How Much Do I Contribute?

  • The amount of money you receive is based on your past contributions.
    • Ask Service Canada to send you a statement of contributions showing your total contributions and an estimate of your pension at age 65.
  • Ask Service Canada to send you a statement of contributions showing your total contributions and an estimate of your pension at age 65.
  • Ask Service Canada to send you a statement of contributions showing your total contributions and an estimate of your pension at age 65.

Can I Receive CPP and Still Work?

  • As of 2010, you can work and receive CPP, but you cannot contribute to CPP.
  • Starting in 2012, you can continue to make CPP contributions after age 65 if you are working and are receiving CPP in the new Post Retirement Benefit plan.
  • Starting in 2012, if you are under 65 and receiving CPP payments and working, you and your employer must contribute to CPP. Your contributions will go towards the Post Retirement Benefit.
  • Your contributions to the Post Retirement Benefit will be added to your current retirement benefits. This will gradually increase your retirement income.

When Should I Start Collecting CPP?

Factors to consider:

  • If you receive CPP before age 65, you will receive a lower amount.
  • If you receive CPP after age 65, your CPP payments will be greater.
  • If you will also qualify for Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits upon retirement, you may wish to take CPP before age 65 even though you will be receiving a smaller amount because GIS is reduced based on your income. A smaller CPP means you may be entitled to more GIS.
    • CPP is taxable income. GIS is non-taxable income.

How Do I Apply for CPP?

You must complete an application form at least 6 months before you want your CPP to begin. Contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY).

What is Credit Splitting?

  • If you are divorced or separated, CPP combines both of your contributions (credits) while you were together and splits them equally. If you have a lower number of credits, this may help you qualify for CPP or increase your benefits.
  • You must apply for a CPP credit split.

Other Facts You Should Know:

  • Drop-out Provision. Years in which you did not receive any income, or years where you earned the lowest amount can be removed from the calculation, thus increasing the amount of CPP you will receive.
  • Drop-out for Child Rearing Provision. This is a special provision for people who had a lower income or no income while raising children under the age of 7. You must apply for this provision when you apply for CPP.

For more information about eligibility and for an application form, contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY).

CPP Disability Benefit

The CPP disability benefit is a monthly payment to people who can no longer work due to a disability.

You Are Eligible if:

  • You are under 65.
  • You cannot work on a regular basis.
  • You contributed to CPP for at least 4 of the last 6 years OR
  • You contributed to CPP for the last 3 out of 6 years AND you contributed to CPP for a minimum of 25 years.

How Do I Apply for the CPP Disability Benefit?

You must complete an application form by contacting Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY).

Tips

  • Apply for CPP disability benefits as soon as you have a serious disability.
  • A CPP disability pension is greater than a CPP retirement pension.
  • Try to get legal advice if this is your situation.

Canadian Pension Plan Survivor Benefits

CPP Survivor Benefits

Payments made to the deceased CPP contributor’s spouse, common-law partner or dependent children. There are three types of benefits:

  1. Death benefit - a single, one-time payment
  2. Survivor’s pension - a monthly pension
  3. Children’s benefit - a monthly benefit

How Do I Apply for the CPP Survivor Benefits?

You must complete an application form. Contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY).

Tips

  • Apply as soon as possible after the contributors’ death
  • If you are widowed more than once, only one survivor’s pension will be paid.

Old Age Security (OAS)

  • A taxable monthly payment available to Canadians aged 65 or over who have lived in Canada for a certain period of time after age 18.
    • Residence in a number of other countries can count as residency for OAS (Contact Service Canada for more information: 1-800-454-8731).

Who is Eligible for OAS?

You are eligible for OAS if you are 65 years old or over and:

  1. Living in Canada:
    1. You are a Canadian Citizen or legal resident of Canada on the day before your application is approved and
    2. You lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years after age 18.
  2. Living outside of Canada:
    1. You are a Canadian Citizen or legal resident of Canada on the day before you stopped living in Canada and
    2. You lived in Canada for a minimum of 20 years after age 18.

If none of the above applies to you, you may be eligible for International Benefits. Contact Service Canada for more information. If you live in Canada or the United States call: 1-800-454-8731 (TTY: 1-800-255-4786). If you live outside of Canada or the United States call: 1-613-957-1954 (collect calls accepted).

How Do I Apply for OAS?

You must complete an application form. Contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY).

Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

GIS: Do I Qualify?

These payments are made to low-income seniors in addition to OAS. Eligibility depends on:

  • You must qualify for the OAS.
  • Your income or the combined income of you and your spouse/common-law partner must fall below a specific amount specified by the government.

How Do I Apply for GIS?

  • You must complete an application form. Contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY).
  • If you did not qualify for the GIS benefit in the past, but you think you might be eligible now, you should apply as soon as possible.

Tips:

  • You do not pay income tax on the GIS payments you receive.
  • You must renew your GIS each year when you file your taxes.
  • If your wages are greater than $3,500/year, the government will deduct 50 cents of every additional dollar you earn excluding self-employed earnings.

What Happens If I Marry, Separate or My Partner Dies?

  • Let Service Canada know because it may affect your benefits.
  • If you are separated for reasons beyond your control (for example, if one of you has to live in a hospital or nursing home), you might be considered a single person and receive a higher monthly payment.

The Allowance

This provides money to a low-income senior who has a spouse that qualifies for OAS and GIS. You are eligible if:

  • You are 60 to 64 years of age.
  • You are a Canadian Citizen or legal resident of Canada at the time your application for the Allowance is approved.
  • You have lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years after age 18.
    • If you have not lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years, you may still be eligible for the Allowance in the form of International Benefits.

How Do I Apply for The Allowance?

  • Contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY) to request an application kit.

The Allowance for the Survivor

Money given to a low-income senior who is a widow or widower. You may be eligible for the Allowance for the Survivor if:

  • You are a widow or widower. Single, separated or divorced individuals are not eligible.
  • You are 60 to 64 years of age.
  • You are a Canadian Citizen or legal resident of Canada at the time your application for the Allowance for the Survivor is approved.
  • You have lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years after age 18
    • If you have not lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years, you may still be eligible for the Allowance for the Survivor in the form of International Benefits.

How Do I Apply for the Allowance for the Survivor?

  • You must apply. If your spouse or common-law partner has died, contact Service Canada at: 1-800-277-9914 (toll-free) or 1-800-255-4786 (TTY) to request an application kit.

GST/HST Credit

A tax-free payment for people with low or modest incomes. To be eligible for the credit, you must be:

  • A resident of Canada, and
  • Age 19 or older, unless you are a parent or married or living common-law

How Do I Apply?

  • A resident of Canada, and
  • On page 1 of your return, check “Yes” when it asks you whether you are applying for the GST/HST or the Ontario Sales Tax Credit.
  • If you have a spouse or common-law partner, only one of you can apply for the credit.
  • For detailed instructions contact the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-1953.

Federal Assistance for Low-Income Homeowners & Landlords

Two Federal Programs that Assist Low-Income Homeowners and Landlords Include:

  1. Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program
    • A program to help low-income homeowners pay for necessary home repairs.
  2. Home Adaptations for Seniors’ Independence
    • A program to help low-income homeowners and landlords pay for small changes (handrails, grab bars in the bathroom, etc) to assist seniors aged 65 or over with the activities of daily living.

For more information about these two programs, and for applications, please call the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation toll-free at: 1-800-668-2642.

Ontario Income Support Benefits

Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS)

A monthly payment to low-income Ontario seniors provided by the Ontario Ministry of Revenue. You may be eligible to receive GAINS if:

  • You are 65 or older.
  • You are a resident of Ontario and you receive OAS and GIS.

OR

  • You receive OAS and GIS through International Benefits AND you have been a legal resident of Canada for 10 or more years.
  • You have been a permanent resident of Ontario for the past 12 months OR you lived in Ontario for at least 20 years after age 18.
  • Your total income (from all sources) is below the amount that is guaranteed by the province.

How Do I Apply for GAINS?

No application is necessary. If you meet the eligibility requirements you will automatically receive payments.

For more information contact the Ontario Ministry of Revenue at: 1-866-668-8297 (toll-free) or 1-800-263-7776 (TTY).

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

Provides financial assistance to people with disabilities who need help to pay for living expenses (food, rent, prescription medications and dental services).

You May Be Eligible for ODSP if:

  1. You are 18 or older, you live in Ontario, and
  2. You meet financial eligibility AND disability eligibility. Your income must be below a specific amount. A health professional must confirm your disability, unless:
    • You receive CPP disability benefits
    • Are over 65 and not eligible for OAS
    • You live in a psychiatric or developmental service facility or in a special care home.

How Do I Apply for ODSP?

If you have a physical/mental disability contact the Ontario Disability Support Program at: 416-325-0500. If you do not qualify, you can request a review of your file. This is called an Internal Review.

Ontario Works (OW)

An employment and financial assistance program (welfare) for people who need help with living expenses. You may qualify for OW if you:

  1. Live in Ontario
  2. Need money right away to help pay for food and housing costs, and
  3. Are willing to look for work.

How Do I Apply for Ontario Works?

Contact Ontario Works at 416-392-8623 or 416-392-2594 (TTY). If you do not qualify for OW, you may request an Internal Review of your file. To seek legal help, contact Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 (toll-free) or 1-866-641-8867 (TTY).

Ontario Tax Grants and Credits

Ontario Senior Homeowners’ Property Tax Grant

  • An annual payment made to qualified low-income seniors to help pay their property tax. For more information call 1-866-668-8297.
  • You must apply by completing a personal income tax return (Form ON479) for the last year and meet the following conditions:
  1. You are 64 or older
  2. You are a resident of Ontario
  3. You (or your spouse or common-law partner) own and occupy your principal residence and pay Ontario property taxes.

Ontario Sales Tax Credit (OSTC)

  • Quarterly payments made to low-income individuals to reimburse you for the sales tax that you pay.
  • To find out if you are eligible, you must file your income taxes even if you have no income to report. For more information call: 1-877-627-6645.

Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit (OEPTC)

  • Payments to low-income individuals to help pay for the cost of energy and property taxes.
  • For more information call: 1-866-668-8297, 1-800-959-8281 or 1-800-263-7776 (TTY).