The article “Borrowing Money To Invest” was originally published on MoneySense on June 10, 2020.
Should you open a margin account with your broker, or opt for an RRSP loan? And what are the potential tax benefits and risks?
There are different ways to borrow to invest.
Opening a margin account
A simple option is with a margin account at a brokerage. Depending on the existing investments in the account, a brokerage will lend up to a certain percentage of the value to an investor, at a specified interest rate.
The amount of “maintenance excess” that needs to be kept in the account as collateral for borrowed securities generally ranges from 30% to 100% of the market value. Larger, established, blue-chip stocks may only have a 30% margin requirement, meaning up to $70 borrowed for every $100 invested.
Margin interest rates generally range from 5% to 10%, but can vary. The interest is tax-deductible when the borrowed money is being used to invest. If stocks fall, a margin account investor could have a “margin call” and need to deposit more funds, or sell stocks to reduce leverage.
Investment and RRSP loans
Investment loans with required monthly principal and interest payments are another option for borrowing to invest. RRSP loans are often at competitive interest rates as low as prime. Non-RRSP investment loans may be at prime plus 1% or more. Interest rates are reasonably competitive because some financial institutions are getting paid twice on the same transaction, earning interest on the loan and generating fees on the investments purchased.
Once again, an investment loan may generate tax deductions, but only for the interest portion of the payments, not the full principal and interest payments. Interest on money borrowed to invest in an RRSP or TFSA is not tax-deductible because the income being earned is not taxable income. Interest paid to earn taxable non-registered investment income (such as outside of a registered account) is tax-deductible.
Using a mortgage or line of credit to invest
Lines of credit or mortgages on real estate can be used to invest, and the interest can be tax-deductible as well. An important distinction is that it is the use of borrowed funds that determines tax deductibility. Borrowing money against a rental property does not make the interest automatically tax-deductible if the funds are used for a personal purpose. Borrowing money to invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, a rental property, or a business are common criteria for interest deductibility.
Interest for funds used to finance an income property can be deducted on your tax return, including money borrowed against a personal-use property like a home or cottage, if the funds are used towards a down payment, renovation, or other costs for a rental property that earns rental income.