As a Senior Do I Qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Guaranteed Income Supplement

The Guaranteed Income Supplement provides additional money, on top of the Old Age Security pension, to low-income seniors living in Canada. To be eligible for the GIS benefit, you must be receiving the Old Age Security pension and meet the income requirements explained below.

How do I Apply for the Guaranteed Income Supplement?

You must apply for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). To get an application form, contact Service Canada at 1-800-277-9914. You can also re-apply for GIS by filing your income tax return. 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. Normally, individuals must apply for the GIS benefit on their own behalf. If you are applying for someone else, please call Service Canada for more information.

Changes made to the Old Age Security Act have simplified the application process for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). It is now easier for you to apply and receive the benefits for which you are eligible. You only need to apply once for the benefit and will not need to re-apply, as long as you file an income tax return each year.

Do I Need to File a Tax Return Every Year?

If you do not file an income tax return, or if we need more information, we will send you a renewal application form in the mail. If you receive an application form from us, you must complete and return it as soon as you have all the necessary income information, even if you file a tax return.

The GIS benefit is based on your annual income, or the combined annual income of you and your spouse or common-law partner, if you have one. A change in income could therefore result in a change in benefit. Each July, you will receive a letter that tells you the new amount of your monthly payment or the reasons why your GIS benefit has stopped.

What Makes Me Eligible for the GIS?

To qualify for the GIS, you must be eligible for the Old Age Security pension. Eligibility also depends on whether the combined income of you and your spouse or common-law partner, if you have one, exceeds a specific amount. On July 1, 2008, an amendment to the Old Age Security Act came into effect increasing the GIS earnings exemption to $3 500 from $500. A single pensioner, for example, earning $3 500 or more, will now be able to keep up to an additional $1 500 in annual GIS benefits.

When applying for the GIS benefit, you, and in the case of a couple, you and your spouse or common-law partner, must report the following income:

  • Canada Pension Plan or Quebec Pension Plan benefits
  • Private pension income and superannuation
  • Foreign pension income
  • RRSPs that you cashed during the year
  • Employment Insurance benefits
  • Interest on any savings
  • Any capital gains or dividends
  • Income from any rental properties
  • Any employment income minus allowable deductions including your Canada Pension Plan and/or Quebec Pension Plan contributions and your Employment Insurance premiums. Subtract the lesser of the result of the calculation or $3,500;
  • Income from other sources such as workers’ compensation payments, alimony, etc.

Benefits received from the Old Age Security program, including the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Allowance, are not included as income.

In some situations, such as when you stop working or when you suffer a loss or reduction of pension income, we can calculate your GIS benefit by estimating your pension and employment income for this year, instead of using last year’s pension and employment income. If you or your spouse or common-law partner have a lower income this year for either of these reasons, you should Service Canada. Your benefits may increase.

Here is a chart of how the benefits work:


Marital Status of GIS Recipients Maximum monthly GIS benefit

(January to March 2016)

Maximum Income

(January to March 2016)

Single, widowed, or separated $732.36 $16,368 Couple (an OAS pensioner and a spouse or common-law partner who does not receive OAS)
Couple (Two OAS pensioners) $485.61 $21,648
Couple (an OAS pensioner and an Allowance recipient) $485.61 $39,264

You can learn more and apply here.

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