What is the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)?

22 October 2021 by National Bank
Image of a retired man on a hike in nature with his dog

Do you know what the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is? The Old Age Security (OAS) pension is supplemented by a payment to low-income Canadian seniors aged 65 and over. It can make a huge difference to your quality of life if you qualify, so read on to learn more about the GIS, how it works and how much you could get.

Do I qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)?

To receive the GIS, you must:

Good to know: The maximum income threshold to receive the GIS varies depending on whether you’re single, widowed, divorced or have a spouse or common-law partner.

Will I receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement for the rest of my life?

You should receive the GIS if and for as long as you qualify for it. However, it’s a federal government benefit, so the conditions, amounts and program depend on the policies of the government in power. 

Pro tip: It’s important to know how to save and invest for your retirement to ensure you maintain your quality of life. Don’t think you’ll have enough money to retire with peace of mind? There are strategies to help you catch up on your retirement savings.

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What situations could make you no longer qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement?

Some changes to your situation may mean you no longer meet the criteria for receiving the GIS. To avoid collecting undue payments and then having to pay them back, contact the federal government when any of the following happens. Changes that may prevent you from qualifying for the GIS include:

  • Leaving Canada for more than 6 months
  • Not filing your income tax return
  • Changing your marital status (marriage, divorce, common-law union, etc.)
  • Serving a prison sentence of 2 years or longer
  • Increase in income (or that of your spouse or common-law partner) 
  • Death 

How can I get the Guaranteed Income Supplement?

In some cases, the federal government will automatically pay you the GIS after analyzing your income tax return. You should receive a letter notifying you the month after your 64th birthday. However, you may have to apply to the Government of Canada if you qualify but don’t receive it.  

You can receive the GIS as early as the month following your 65th birthday. The amount of the benefit isn’t taxable, but you still have to file your income tax return so that you receive the right amount at the right time.

Good to know: Rather than waiting to file your next income tax return to adjust your GIS, contact the government as soon as your situation changes or if you think you’re not receiving the right amount. That way, your benefits will be adjusted more quickly.

You'll be mailed a cheque or the payment will be deposited into your bank account if you’re registered for direct deposit with the Canada Revenue Agency. The GIS amount is added to the Old Age Security (OAS) pension amount in a single payment. 

How much Guaranteed Income Supplement will I receive?

The current GIS benefit amount is available on the federal government website.

A good way of estimating how much you might receive is to use the federal government’s GIS calculator. The amount you receive depends on your income and the income of your spouse or common-law partner (for those who aren’t single, widowed or divorced). 

Good to know: The amount of the supplement is reviewed four times a year to adjust to increases in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The GIS can therefore increase during the year, but it won’t go down, even if the cost of living does. 

Also good to know: Receiving the GIS is one of the criteria for your spouse to receive the federal government Allowance.  

Do I have the option to defer my Guaranteed Income Supplement payments?

You can defer the GIS if you defer your Old Age Security (OAS) but it's not necessarily a good idea to do so. If you qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, it's because your income is lower, so it would likely be hard to live without it. Also, unlike the Old Age Security, the GIS doesn’t increase if you decide to receive it later. It isn’t taxable and can make a big difference to the lives of people who receive it.  

There are still some specific situations where it may be worth delaying the OAS and GIS. Each case is different and it really depends on your situation. It’s worth talking to your specialist to make the right decision and properly plan your retirement

The Guaranteed Income Supplement can be a significant source of income for many Canadian seniors. This is why it’s important to understand how it works and to apply for it if you qualify but aren’t receiving it. Please feel free to ask for help from our retirement specialists. We’re here to answer your questions.

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