A retiring allowance, as defined in subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act and part 1 of the Quebec Taxation Act, is an amount received upon or after retirement or termination from an office or employment in recognition of long service. This is often money paid at the discretion of the employer and not required by law. Sometimes this payment is referred to as a termination, lump-sum, or severance payment. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) IT Folio S2-F1-C2, Retiring Allowances provides additional technical interpretations.
The term "retiring allowance" does not necessarily mean that the individual is retiring and is used by the CRA and Revenu Québec (RQ) to describe a payment made to a terminating employee as compensation for loss of office or in recognition of past service.
Before a retiring allowance can qualify as such, the employer must establish the employee-employer relationship has been severed. If the terminated employee is still expected to perform services for the former employer, or is still accruing benefits in the company’s pension plan, an employee-employer relationship is still deemed to exist and the payment would not qualify as a retiring allowance.
Regular employment income, such as bonuses, commission payments, accumulated overtime, legislated pay in lieu of notice and vacation pay, do not qualify as a retiring allowance. However, accumulated sick leave credits paid out on termination, damages awarded to a former employee in a wrongful dismissal case and severance pay required under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, and the Canada Labour Code, Part III, or a gratuitous severance pay in any jurisdiction, qualify as a retiring allowance. Amounts over and above the legislated minimum lieu of notice periods may qualify as a retiring allowance provided the employee-employer relationship has, in fact, been severed.
As retiring allowances are usually paid at the discretion of the employer, the amount will vary for each employee. The method of payment can vary as well. For example, some employers will pay the retiring allowance as a lump-sum payment on termination, whereas others will choose to spread this payment over a number of months, or even a number of years.
Payments that qualify as a retiring allowance are taxable using the lump-sum tax rates and are not subject to Canada/Quebec Pension Plan contributions, Employment Insurance (EI) premiums, or Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) premiums.