TurboTax Canada review
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Updated: March 23, 2023
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Filing your own taxes with guided software makes a lot of sense, since some tax prep software can give you a better understanding of the Canadian tax system, and can help you save money, too.
With that in mind, we’ll take a close look at one of Canada’s most popular tax prep platforms: TurboTax.
TurboTax software overview
TurboTax adopts the business model where it’s free to try, and you don’t need to pay until you file. The benefit of this is that you can give the platform a test run to see if you like it before committing. For this review I chose the self-employed version, which has most of the same features as the other versions, plus some added questions related specifically to self-employment.
If you’ve used a paid TurboTax version to file in previous years, you can sign in with your existing login information. Once you choose the version of the platform most appropriate for you, TurboTax will walk you through its ‘interview’ process. If you need to take a break during filing to gather information, you can save your place in the filing process and come back later. When you return you’ll come back to your home screen, where you can switch between tax returns (if you’re working on more than one simultaneously) and view previous years’ returns as well.
The interview will start with a few simple questions:
- For whom are you preparing the tax return (yourself, your spouse or someone else)?
- What’s your marital status?
- Do you have any dependents (children, family members with disabilities or elderly parents), etc.
You’ll then be prompted for personal information to identify you, such as your first and last name, date of birth, SIN and home address. If you filed your tax return with TurboTax last year, you can save yourself some time by transferring your personal and other important information that you entered previously (depending on the version you used). At the end of each interview section you can review the information before submitting, ensuring accuracy.
After completing this basic tax profile, you’ll answer questions about your income and RRSPs. There are also sections that cover whether you’re a student, if you own real estate or other property, and that identify credits and deductions you may be entitled to (e.g. donations to a charity, medical expenses, etc.). Some of these prompts may seem redundant, but answering them helps TurboTax figure out exactly what tax slips are necessary. Once you’ve worked your way through the credits and deductions, you’ll do a final tax review to make sure your return is complete.
After finishing your tax return, you pay TurboTax and file with CRA. If you want to receive your refund faster (usually within 8 days), you can send your return via NETFILE, for which TurboTax is certified by the CRA.
If you’d like a ballpark figure of how much you owe the CRA *before* you try out the TurboTax platform, you can use TurboTax’s simple tax calculator (no registration required).
TurboTax guarantees that you’ll get the biggest refund possible (provided you answer its prompts accurately) and it makes it easy to keep track of your refund amount by displaying it on the top left of the screen throughout the filing process. TurboTax also guarantees that its income tax software is error free—if you come across any errors that lead to a penalty with Canada Revenue Agency, TurboTax will cover the penalty with interest.
One thing I like about TurboTax is its tax-savings opportunities screen, which will list and describe any and all tax-savings opportunities available to the user. There have been a number of tax changes in the past tax year, especially with COVID-19, so make sure you take advantage of them all.
TurboTax software versions and pricing
TurboTax has four automated versions (Free; Standard; Premier; Self-Employed) and two premium versions (Assist & Review; Full Service) that include assistance and oversight from tax professionals.
|Version||Pricing (per return)||Intended audience||Special feature|
|Free||$0||Those with simple tax returns||Auto-fill my return - Imports your CRA tax data directly into your return|
|Deluxe||$20.99||Families, students and individual returns||Identifies tax saving opportunities by searching 400+ credits and deductions|
|Premier||$34.99||For investments and rental properties||Expert guidance on investment and rental property income/expenses|
|Self-employed||$49.99 (do-it-yourself)||For filing self-employed taxes||Step-by-step guidance to identify self-employed expenses.|
|Assist and review||$39.99-$109.99 ($49.99-129.99 as of April 17th)||For beginners, new at filing their own taxes||Help with your tax return and a full professional review before you file|
|Full service||$69.99-$249.99 ($89.99-$279.99 as of April 17th)||If you'd prefer that TurboTax files your taxes for you||Tax return prepared, optimized, reviewed, and filed for you, with year round audit support|
All TurboTax versions provide the opportunity to auto-fill your return, which means your tax documents can be pulled from the CRA’s website, with information from them plugged into your return automatically. It’s quite handy, saves a lot of time, and ensures that you can get the most accurate information possible.
With the ability to search for hundreds of extra deductions, Deluxe TurboTax is much more valuable than the Free version. If a new tax credit or deduction is found, it will likely make the $20.99 fee look relatively tiny by comparison, but it’s also worthwhile to consider the ease-of-use benefits that come with Standard. Free version users don’t enjoy the same continuity and will need to input everything anew each year. They also lack access to on-demand guidance from TurboTax specialists, and automatic optimization of their tuition, pension, RRSP, and other more complicated elements of a tax return.
The only support resource provided for users of the free TurboTax version is the AnswerXchange, an online community forum where you can post questions and other community members as well as TurboTax Care will provide up-to-date and accurate responses.
If you want or need further support, you’ll need to upgrade. In addition to the AnswerXchange, the Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed versions of TurboTax come with phone support. I used TurboTax’s phone support last year when I was running into issues with the filing process and I was very pleased with the support I received.
If you’re looking for even more support, you can upgrade to Assist & Review for $39.99-$109.99 ($49.99-$129.99 as of April 17th) or Full Service for $69.99-$249.99 ($89.99-$279.99 as of April 17th). While the Do-It-Yourself versions of TurboTax are entirely automated and the software algorithm provides oversight of the tax filing process, the Assist & Review version brings in a human eye to review the tax return. With Full Service, you can send TurboTax your financial details via an encrypted link and they will prepare your tax return, optimize it, review it, and file it for you, with year-round audit support. You don’t even need to do the usual guided interview. Most Canadians won’t need this level of tax support (it’s ideal if your tax return is overly complicated and/or you simply don’t have to time to work on it yourself), but it’s good to know it’s there if you need it.
How does TurboTax compare to competing tax prep software?
TurboTax has perhaps the most user-friendly design of any income tax software I’ve used. The guided filing process has evolved over the years from overlong and overwhelming forms to more digestible segments where you’re only asked to complete sections relevant to you.
With respect to pricing, TurboTax is a premium tax platform, and, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. By paying slightly more you might benefit from an easier tax filing process and a larger return.
You can click here for a detailed look at how TurboTax compares to other Canadian tax prep software.Try TurboTax today