How to choose the right Canadian tax return software for you
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Filing your own taxes can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. Today there are a variety of free tax return software to choose from, and it’s never been less intimidating or easier to file taxes independently.
The biggest benefit of using tax return software and filing the DIY way, as opposed to paying a tax consultant, is savings. By filing your own taxes, the savings will add up year over year.
Generally, filing your own taxes only makes sense if your tax return is relatively straightforward. If it’s complicated, you may be better off hiring a tax consultant. Although many of the free programs can handle rental income and self-employment, if you’re not familiar with the tax systems, you may be overlooking tax credits and deductions you’re entitled to, negating any money you saved by filing your taxes yourself.
Features you should look for when choosing tax return software
Here is a list of key features that you should consider when looking for the best tax return software in Canada.
Ease of use
Unless you have a background in taxation, you’ll want free tax return software that’s easy to use. Rather than having to pick and choose the specific tax forms you’ll need, I find it helps if the tax software comes with a wizard. That way the program will guide you to choose the right tax forms without you needing to be an expert.
You’ll also want tax software that’s compatible with your computer’s operating system. If you use Windows you shouldn’t have any problem finding compatible tax software. If you use Mac, you might have slightly less selection.
Availability of a free version
If your tax return is pretty straightforward — i.e., you’re a salaried employee with no rental income or self-employment — why pay for tax return software when you don’t have to? Save money by choosing from among the best free tax return software out there.
Limitations of a free version
When choosing free tax return software, you’ll want to make sure the software has all the features you’ll need. For example, if you have rental income, be cognizant of the fact that not all free tax return software will process that. Some software lets you prepare your tax return for free, but you may have to pay extra to file a more complicated return.
If you’re reading this article, chances are pretty good that you have a decent understanding of English, but if you’re looking for tax return software in a different language, you might have a tougher time. That said, a lot of software today is offered in several languages. Check beforehand to see if the language you’re most comfortable with is supported.
Last, but not least, you’ll want income tax software that’s NETFILE approved. NETFILE is a service that lets you send your tax return directly to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) safely and securely from your PC. You’ll receive a notification when the CRA receives it. If you’re using income tax software, chances are pretty good that it’s NETFILE approved, but it’s still a good idea to check beforehand.
Best Canadian tax return software
Below we review eight of the best tax return software in Canada. We’ll describe each in detail, mentioning its distinguishing features, strengths and weaknesses/limitations to help you make an educated decision about which one is the right tax software for you.
Wealthsimple Tax (Formerly SimpleTax)
Formerly SimpleTax, Wealthsimple Tax is one of the newer income tax filing programs out there, and it seems to combine the best features from other tax return software to make a well-rounded program. Wealthsimple Tax offers a web-based version, can be used on a local Windows or Mac desktop, and is available on mobile via the Apple App Store and Google Play. It features a unique pay-what-you-want structure: it’s technically free, although you might opt to donate something to help support the creators.
Despite its name, Wealthsimple Tax can handle more complicated tax scenarios including self-employment, investment income and, crypto trading. It will automatically import your transactions, find market prices at the time of your trades, and match transfers between over 300 supported wallets and exchanges to calculate your crypto gains/losses.
Wealthsimple Tax also supports Quebec tax returns and includes a full translation to French, something not very common in free income tax software. It has one of the best user interfaces out there, cleaner and more user friendly than that of, say, StudioTax. Similar to StudioTax, you can NETFILE the maximum allowed 20 tax returns for free. Data you submit is protected, as everything is transmitted using encryption.
Try Wealthsimple Tax or learn more by reading our complete Wealthsimple Tax review.
TurboTax offers both free and paid versions, and works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. One notable feature of the free version is it has no income limit (unlike some competing free tax prep programs). Although you can import your tax information with CRA’s Auto-fill My Return, you’ll have to purchase the paid version of the program if you want to transfer your tax information from last year. This is a bit of a bummer.
However, for most people the relatively inexpensive Deluxe version is worthwhile, at just $20.99. Not only does it allow you to save and transfer tax information from past returns, it will also search for over 400 additional tax credits and deductions to see if they’re applicable. That has huge potential to maximize your return.
The TurboTax interface has evolved over the years from presenting overlong forms to presenting more palatable, user-friendly segments, where you’re only asked to complete sections relevant to you. Everything is well organized by tabs, and its user support is excellent in the event that you run into issues (though, again, high-level customer support is only available for paid versions).
Try TurboTax or learn more by reading our complete TurboTax review.
H&R Block allows you to file your income tax return, even if you’re self-employed or have investment income. The offer is available to Quebecers as well.
Taxes can be filed online with NETFILE using a Windows or Mac computer, or Android and iOS mobile operating systems. If your tax situation is more complicated, there are several add-ons you can purchase, including Audit Protection and Expert Review.
H&R Block’s interface is well conceived. The opening screen is organized into five logical tabs: get started, quick entry, prepare, wrap-up and file. On each screen you’re only asked a few questions at a time to help you move through the software at a manageable pace. The status report in on the left-hand side of the screen helps you monitor where you’re at monetarily in terms of a tax refund or balance owing.
Try H&R Block or learn more by reading our complete H&R Block review.
StudioTax has been helping Canadians file their income tax returns for over a decade.
For most of that decade, it had been free, and it still is for those in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut as well as for those with income under $20,000. But for the rest of us it costs $15 for filing a maximum of 20 returns.
Though it’s generally considered to be a streamlined program without a lot of bells and whistles, it does accommodate those with self-employment and rental income.
The program’s Quick Start Wizard progresses in a logical way, prompting users to enter their information step by step. If you’ve been filing your taxes with StudioTax for a while, you can import your tax information from the previous year, helping you save time. StudioTax lets you file up to 20 returns — the maximum for NETFILE — for a reasonable price.
It used to only work locally via a Windows or Mac desktop, but now there’s a mobile version for iOS and Android as well. Design-wise StudioTax might benefit from a facelift, but it works pretty well for what it is.
UFileFREE has a web-based version, or can be used locally on a Mac or Windows desktop. There is currently no mobile version.
In order to file your taxes for free with UFileFREE, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:
You’re filing your tax return for the first time
Your total family income is under $20,000
You’re a post-secondary student
You’re a dependent
You’re in receipt of Guaranteed Income Supplement
Your only income is from T4 tax slips.
If you don’t qualify under at least one of the above, you can use a more robust version of the program, but you’ll have to pony up the cash for it.
AdvTax is able to handle a variety of tax situations, such as single filers, those filing as a family, and self-employed individuals. It also supports Quebec tax returns, a nice and unusual bonus for a free income tax software.
It’s a truly free rather than ‘freemium’ income tax software—users won’t be required to pay for any higher-level functionality. Users can download a return once it’s complete and upload the PDF files to the CRA NETFILE. Although the software interface itself is decent, the website is very text heavy and could use a redesign. Those filing simple tax returns should be able to complete their return with AdvTax in about five minutes.
The software works with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS operating systems. In terms of languages, it supports English, French and Chinese.
GenuTax walks users through the tax filing process with an easy-to-understand interview, allowing users to claim the tax credits and deductions they’re entitled to. Like Wealthsimple Tax, it’s technically free, though patrons are encouraged to donate something in order to support the program’s developers.
GenuTax can process most tax situations, including investment income, rental properties and small businesses. It’s a multiyear income tax software, meaning that in addition to filing your tax return for the current year, you can go back as far as 2008 if you’d like to file a previous year’s tax return. Users are able to file the maximum 20 individual tax returns.
The program works with Windows operating systems only, and is currently not available for Mac or mobile.
EachTax meets the needs of individuals with simple tax returns as well as those with more intricate situations, including the self-employed and those with rental properties. It’s Windows and Mac compatible and features a number of attractive features, such as auto filling via tax data query, express notification of assessment and built-in error checking.
EachTax is free for individuals that meet one or more of the following criteria:
They’re new customers (regardless of income level)
They’re new to Canada
They’re seniors (70 years or older)
They earn $25,000 or less in annual income
If you don’t fall into one of those groups, the price is still relatively cheap: $6.99 for the first tax return filed with the program and $3.99 for each subsequent tax return. As with most free income tax programs, Quebecers are out of luck.
Summary of Canadian tax return softwares
Our recommendation for filing
Are you experiencing information overload due to the sheer number of income tax programs available? You’re not alone. Although we encourage you to consider the features of each program, if you’re overwhelmed and anxious to choose a well-rounded tax software, TurboTax is generally a safe bet. It’s Canada’s best-selling tax software for good reason: the interface is sleek and easy to use, whether you’ve been filing your taxes on your own for many years or it’s your first time.