ACTRA’s Minors’ Trust Explained

The ACTRA PRS Minors’ Trust holds 25 per cent of a child performer’s lifetime earnings over $5,000 until they turn 18. When the young performer turns 18, every dollar contributed to the trust, plus the interest accrued, is made available for the performer to withdraw.

The Minors’ Trust is designed to protect and preserve the income earned by child performers to use at their own discretion once they become adults. Ontario laws, specifically the Protecting Child Performers Act (PCPA), require that the earnings of child performers are protected in such a way. The law says the income earned by a child performer is their property. ACTRA unequivocally takes the same stance. It is acknowledged that some of a child’s earnings may be spent on reasonable business expenses related to their performing income — costs like headshots and agent’s commissions — but these expenses must be documented. However, outside of these expenses, Ontario law says a child’s income should be safeguarded for them.

Under the law, when a child performer earns more than $2,000 on a project, 25 per cent of the earnings must be held in trust for the child until they turn 18. If the child is a member of a trade union that negotiates on their behalf, as ACTRA does, the union steps in as the custodian of the funds and must hold 25 per cent of any earnings over $5,000 until the performer reaches the age of majority.

ACTRA takes its role as custodian of these funds seriously. Through rigorous research and thorough inquiries, ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society (PRS) has obtained the most secure form of financial insurance on the market. Every dollar deposited into the trust is absolutely guaranteed by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) and for very large trust accounts, additionally by the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). This ensures that no matter the state of the financial institution, the funds will be there when the minor turns 18 and the time comes to withdraw their money. The funds in the trust are currently guaranteed to earn 1.65 per cent interest annually and have earned that rate for many years. For comparison, TD’s high-interest savings account earns .05 per cent.

Some parents and guardians have contended that their child’s money could be earning a higher interest rate if they were held in mutual funds or stocks instead of in the Minors’ Trust. Again, the overriding objective of the Minors’ Trust is income protection, not earning a high return on investment. Earning higher returns inevitably comes with higher risk, and ACTRA PRS is unwilling to risk losing any of your child’s money. However, only 25 per cent of a child performer’s income is held in the Minors’ Trust. ACTRA reminds parents and guardians of their legal responsibility to safeguard the rest of their children’s income in trust until they reach the age of 18, which could be in mutual funds or other financial instruments. Since the funds are the property of their child, the investments must be placed in the performer’s control once they reach the age of majority.

Similarly, some parents have asked if they have the option to not participate in the Minors’ Trust. It is possible for parents to establish a similar protected trust to hold these earnings instead of ACTRA. However, according to Ontario law, the custodian must prove with documentation that the funds will be held in a protected trust until their child is 18 years old. Furthermore, ACTRA requires the parent becomes legally obligated to track their child’s income and contribute 25 per cent of each cheque to that trust.

By participating in the Minors’ Trust, your child’s earnings and contributions across all ACTRA jobs are tracked by a dedicated team at ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society. The trustees on the board of PRS are responsible for reporting this information to parents. PRS absorbs much of the cost of this work and does not charge any annual administration fees, fees on interest or fees on disbursements. There is a two per cent processing fee when the minor’s contributions are received by PRS.

Recent administrative changes have improved the way parents can view their child’s contributions and balances. Prior to October 2020, the Minors’ Trust was held within the Creative Arts and Savings Union (CASCU). Parents could log into CASCU’s online portal and check the balance of their child’s account. By springtime of 2021, CASCU merged its operations with FirstOntario Credit Union and created a new division called Creative Arts Financial. This is where the Minors’ Trust is held today.

Instead of the online option, parents now receive a twice-annual paper statement that provides an account balance and lists the name of each production their child worked on and every associated contribution. The paper statements also track the HST contributions on the interest earned and the fees on contributions. This is a much more detailed statement than was previously available when parents could only see their child’s account balance. The paper statements delivered in March of each year also provide valuable reporting information for tax time and can be sent directly to your accountant.

Child performers are the only workers under the age of 14 legally allowed to work in Ontario. This provides child actors with a unique opportunity, but the opportunity also comes with some risks. Fortunately, ACTRA has been working with Ontario MPPs since 2005 to legally enshrine special protections for child performers, including health and safety measures, tutoring provisions, restrictions to work hours, parental supervision guidelines and, of course, income protection.

A child performer’s income can be preserved to fund training as children transition to becoming adult performers. The Minors’ Trust funds could be used to pay for theatre school, dance or musical training, or whatever professional development your child believes they may need. Alternatively, a young performer may decide they would like to pivot away from acting and invest in a different kind of education. The Minors’ Trust is a proven and effective means of preserving a child’s income until they are old enough to make their own financial decisions.

Bryn McAuley did her first job as a voiceover actor at the age of seven, playing the role of Caillou.  Since then, she has voiced more than 70 animated characters. Bryn used her Minor’s Trust money to pay for theatre school in New York City.