Luisa Rollenhagen is a writer and editor who lives in Berlin.
Traditionally, an accountant has been the go-to source for those overwhelmed and frustrated with their tax preparations. Increasingly, however, more and more people are turning to online tax preparation software that does most of the heavy lifting for you—including filing your return and any needed forms to CRA, calculating your refund, and facilitating deposits. Many of these online services charge a fraction of what a traditional accountant does—and in some cases, nothing at all. The process is quick, painless, efficient, and secure.
Below, we’ve selected the most popular tax software available in Canada.Wealthsimple Tax is a simple way to file your taxes. File your return with confidence it’s done right, and pay what you want—there’s no catch.
Wealthsimple Tax (formerly SimpleTax)
The popular tax software SimpleTax has joined forces with Wealthsimple to create Wealthsimple Tax. With tools for fast and accurate filing and tips on how to maximize your refund (and how to smartly use your refund once you receive it), Wealthsimple Tax helps simplify the often nebulous process of accurately filing your taxes and finding the forms you need with just a couple of clicks, as well as including a smart auto-fill feature.
Plus, because Wealthsimple also offers popular tax-advantaged accounts like RRSPs and TFSAs, you’ll get tips on how to change your contributions before March in order to get the most out of your refund. And if you’re really lost, you can always speak to expert human tax advisors through Wealthsimple at any time. Wealthsimple Tax is free.
TurboTax is another popular tax software that features a “freemium” model—basic features are free to use, but if your taxes are a bit more complicated, you’ll need to pay $19.99 for the standard version or $44.99 for self-employed returns. By filling out an online questionnaire, TurboTax searches for over 400 deductions and credits you may be eligible for. The free version of the software has no income limit, meaning that you can use it regardless of whether you made $20,000 or $200,000.
If you decide to upgrade to the premium version, TurboTax allows you to access additional features like the ability to transfer information from the previous year and advanced automatic calculations. You can also upgrade to an Assist & Review ($69.99) option, which gives you unlimited access to an “on-call” tax expert who will help you fill out your return and do a final line-by-line review before you file.
H&R Block’s brick-and-mortar locations have been a mainstay of tax season for decades, but they’ve now entered the online game as well. As is the case with many tax softwares out there, you can choose from a tiered payment system. The free version allows you to complete simple tax returns, but you’ll need to pay for anything else. For $19.99, the “Assistance” version allows you to access unlimited tech support, transfer last year’s data, and receive tips on how to optimize your return.
There’s also a “Protection” feature for $29.99 that has all of the features of the other two tiers, but offers additional audit protection and priority support. You can also purchase an “Expert Review” add-on for $59.99 which allows you to have your return reviewed by an expert before you file.
Similar to Wealthsimple Tax, StudioTax is always free and operates on a pay-what-you-want model. StudioTax was one of the first to enter the online game, having launched its services way back in 2004. One of its most popular features is that the software can be used entirely offline. You just download the app software onto your laptop or phone, and can then complete your entire return with sans a wifi connection in sight. One caveat: Since this software has been around for a while, the interface may not be as clutter-free as you’re perhaps accustomed to from more modern providers.
You can only import last year’s return if you completed it with StudioTax. Another popular feature of the software is that it’s available in all provinces including Quebec, which is sometimes left out in other tax software. Otherwise, StudioTax is able to handle both simple returns and more complex returns for taxpayers who hold investments or rental properties.
UFile is a popular option for first-time filers and students, since it’s free for these groups, as well as for those who are filing a simple return or whose income is below $20,000. For everyone else, the software costs $19.99 per return. UFile is also available in Quebec.
UFile allows you to import data from your last year’s return from either UFile or TurboTax. And for those wanting more control over where their information is stored, UFile allows you to decide where your data goes. For a surcharge, UFile Windows takes your return offline and stores everything on your computer, whereas the standard UFile version keeps everything in the cloud.
Comparison of Popular Tax Software in Canada
|Standard price||$0||$19.99 for the standard version||$19.99 for the standard version||$0||$19.99 for the standard version|
|Free version available?||It's always free. You can also choose to donate an amount||Yes, with limited features||Yes, with limited features||It's always free,,.You can also choose to donate an amount||There's a free version for students, simple returns, low-income earners, and first-time filers|
|Import options||You can import your data from 1 year prior||You can import your data from 1 year prior||You can only import data from your H&R Block file from the previous year||You can only import data from your StudioTax file from the previous year||You can only import data from your TurboTax or UFile files from the previous year|
|Express notice of assessment||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Special features||You can make adjustments to your return after you file||Refund amount is updated in real time||Add-ons include testament and will review||Software is completely offline||Specialized for small business owners and investors|
|Accuracy guarantee||Yes with reimbursement||Yes with reimbursement||Yes with reimbursement||None advertised||Yes|
How to choose the best tax software
Ultimately, the choice of tax software comes down to your own personal needs and financial situation. Here are some points to keep in mind when choosing what tax software to use for your return:
How good is the free version?
Many tax software products have a “freemium” model that offers basic filing services or free filing for users under a certain income level. Before you decide what software to use, check whether the free versions are enough for your needs. (Most products allow you to upgrade to a premium model once you’re in the process of filing.) Another aspect to consider: Does the software allow you to import your information from the previous year, and if so, from what software?
Many software options are also completely free and offer filing services for a wide variety of tax situations, so make sure you evaluate all of your options before settling for a particular service.
Do you want to do your taxes online or offline?
Most tax-filing software stores your information in the cloud. If you’d rather have your information stored offline, a service that allows you to fill out your return offline and stores all of your information on your computer might be the better option.
How much support do you need?
Some software programs offer email, chat, or phone integration, while others require an upgrade to a premium version to access those features. At the very least, you should ask yourself the following: Is there help for both using the tax software and for income tax-related questions? Is there a fee for asking a tax professional for help?
Will you need audit protection?
If you suspect you might be at risk of an audit, then you should research which services offers audit protection. Most offer basic guidance on what happens when you get audited, but some may—for an extra fee—offer representation, where an expert will actually represent your case.
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