In this article, I’ll be reviewing and comparing the best 7 tax return software in Canada.
Who loves doing taxes? I’ll tell you who – no one, that’s who. Tax season comes and goes every year and leaves many sweating over the strenuous activity of doing their taxes. Since it can’t be avoided, many people and businesses have since learnt to hire a tax professional to do and file their tax returns. The problem is, these guys usually do not come cheap.
What Is The Best Free Income Tax Software In Canada?
Consequently, an alternative to hiring a tax professional is using online tax return software. More and more Canadians are warming up to this option. In fact, as far back as 2015, it was reported that 82 percent of the 28 million individual income taxes filed for the year was done electronically. In 2019, that percentage jumped up to over 88 percent.
Tax return software takes away the fear of doing taxes for most people, which makes them a viable option for filing taxes. However, not every software is right for you or even the right one for anybody. There are a few things you must look out for before settling for any of the numerous tax return software on the market.
Quick Peek At The Top 7 Free Tax Return Software In Canada (2020)
7. H&R Block
Which Free Tax Software Is Best In Canada?
Before you go ahead and make a choice, let’s first consider four important parameters that will help you in identifying the best tax return software based on your needs.
1. CRA Certification
If the Canada Revenue Agency has given a tax return software its stamp of approval, it will be listed as one of the products on its Netfile Program.
With all the online and desktop tax return products on the CRA’s certified list, you can submit your income tax return directly to the software’s website. This feature is a relief to most as they would otherwise have to print out a hard copy of the tax forms and send them via mail. No one wants to go through that stress
2. Software Cost
Different tax return software has different pricing structures. Some of these software have absolutely no paywall, while some others offer a free subscription option and two or more paid options with added features for people or small businesses who needed extra functionality.
Even though most software have at least 3 pricing tiers, the pricing ranges between software can be significant as you will discover later in this post
This means that before choosing any tax return software, you will have to do your own due diligence to understand how securely they handle your sensitive data. Whenever you are in doubt, stick with a known brand. You can’t go wrong that way
4. Available Software Features and Add-Ons
To streamline the tax filing process even further, some tax return software makes additional features and add-ons available for a fee. These include features like auto-importing your info from the CRA, storing your returns for later use and so on.
With paid add-ons, you can have an actual tax professional look over your returns, enable audit protection, and even plan your last will and testament. These are more or less upsells and the option to choose them only pop up at the tail end of the tax filing process
Now that you know what to look out for when choosing the right tax return software for your tax needs, we have rounded up 7 of the best tax return software that is available to Canadians for filing their taxes.
For some reason, it makes sense to start with a tax return software option that is absolutely free to use. Yes, SimpleTax does not have any paywall, although you are free to contribute whatever you want to help them keep going. But of course, you still get access to their full features even if you decide to donate zero to their cause, no strings attached.
The tax interface is really clean and user-friendly. And you can fill and file your taxes all from one page.
1. It has a smart search feature that enables anyone to search for almost anything. Users get to type in almost anything and get a relevant search for their query. Whether you are searching for a form for employment or investment income, deductions or credit or anything else, the smart search can determine what you’re looking for and bring it to you.
2. It has an auto-fill feature that can help you import pertinent information for your particular needs into your return directly from the CRA. This feature is easy to understand and works accurately. Significantly takes away the risk of filling the wrong information.
3. SimpleTax’s award-winning one-page design is by far one of its stand out qualities. While filling your tax returns, everything happens on one page. No reloading and no need to refresh. For every information you input or remove, your refund is calculated in real-time and displayed as you go along.
4. This tax software has a refund optimizer feature that works in the background, running different scenarios based on the information you have filled in to ensure that you get the best deal in terms of refunds.
5. Its tutorial mode is also available to help customers to understand and select the forms that apply to their unique tax situation. The user will just need to provide answers to very few numbers of simple and straightforward questions, and the software will provide all that is needed for your tax return.
There are also a few other features such as tax return refiling and express notice of assessment which help this free tax return software to really shine. SimpleTax has no problem doing returns for rental, investment or self-employment income. However, if you want to do returns for corporate tax, then this is not the software for you.
This software joins SimpleTax as one of the free tax return software on this list. No matter the complexity of your return, the fee for using StudioTax stays at zero.
There are no tiered payment structures, no hidden charges, and no upselling. However, the one major difference between StudioTax and SimpleTax is that the former is a native software. This means that you can download it on your mobile or desktop while your device acts as the server. You will not need to submit any kind of registration information as everything will be happening directly on your device.
StudioTax is the perfect choice for people who do not like the idea of their sensitive information being stored on some company’s server. This tax return software is minimalist in terms of the features it makes available: they are very few since the software is free. Also, there are no add-ons. For those who used the software in the preceding tax season, their information can still be accessed on the software.
StudioTax has been serving Canadians since 2004. Since then, it has been known mostly as a software that is ideal for preparing personal income tax. Like SimpleTax, those wanting to do taxes for any other kind of income are better off looking at the other options on this list.
This tax return software has been around for at least a decade and it is arguably one of the most used tax software in Canada. Like SimpleTax and StudioTax, this software also has a free online tax option that is ideal for doing simple taxes.
However, it also has a plethora of paid desktop and online product options for doing more complex taxes.
For TurboTax’s online tax solutions there are:
1. Is TurboTax Really Free? – The free version is perfect for simple tax returns. It comes with a revamped step-by-step process for preparing your return, as well as an auto-fill function and the ability to double-check your returns for accuracy
2. The standard version will set you back $19.99 for every return filed. This package is designed with a focus on maximizing deductions (over 400 of them), and it is ideal for families, students, and individual tax returns
3. The premier version takes it up a notch; it costs $34.99 per return and is the go-to package for tax returns on investments and rental properties
4. If you are self-employed, TurboTax’s self-employed version is perfect for returns in this situation. It boasts that it can help to find every single deduction possible to lower your taxes. It also comes with a tutorial to help you to find and claim every single expense. It costs $44.99 per return
For TurboTax’s download/desktop products, there is:
1. The Basic option which lets you file up to 4 returns and will cost you $19.99. It comes with options like auto-fill and notice of assessment
2. Like its online variant, the standard option is ideal for returns for families, students, and individuals. It costs $34.99 and also contains the same features as the standard online version and then some. With this option, you can file up to 8 returns
3. More on the side of investment and real estate tax returns, the premier package costs $74.99. It includes everything in the standard package including expert guidance on RRSP income and contributions, investment and rental property income and expenses, tuition, family benefits and more
4. TurboTax Home & Business which will set you back $119.99 for up to 12 returns. Like other TurboTax products, it comes with an easy to follow guide that helps you claim every of your business expenses. It is said to be the perfect option for small businesses and freelancers
5. With TurboTax 20 Returns, the number of returns you can prepare and the file goes up to 20. It is an option to consider if you have a family of considerable size and need to file multiple returns. It costs $144.99
6. TurboTax’s Business Incorporated product option gives you the additional ability to file one Corporate T2 Tax Return. You can also file your tax return online via Corporate Internet Filing at no cost and receive instant acknowledgement of your return’s receipt from the CRA. This option costs $249.99
TurboTax also has two relatively new online tax options. With the first, you can either have a tax expert look over your shoulder, provide support while you do your taxes, and review your work before you file it.
With the second option, you can just let a tax expert take over the entire thing and handle it all for you. The first – the Assist & Review Option – is priced at $69.99; it goes up to $84.99 if you’re self-employed. For the second option – the full service – you pay $99.99 or $179.99 if you’re self-employed. You won’t be able to have access to the second option though if you live in Quebec.
In terms of data security, TurboTax secures your data using TLS encryption, which is higher than the security standard stipulated by the CRA. TurboTax is also so confident of their offerings that they offer a maximum refund guarantee.
What this means for you is that they will give you back your TurboTax purchase price if you get a higher refund or lower tax using any non-TurboTax method. Also, they will reimburse you all CRA-related penalties if they do not calculate your taxes 100 percent accurately. You can also access their products via your mobile devices on the Android and iOS platforms.
This tax software is a product from A Class Soft Inc. AdvTax works with a what-you-see-is-all-you-get-type model. It is a free tax return software for Canadians. AdvTax has no upsells and no premium options, which means all the features they offer are completely free.
Speaking of features, AdvTax boasts some interesting capabilities for free software. For one, you can file as an individual, as a family, or even as a self-employed entity. Also, all of AdvTax’s features are fully available for your tax return calculations and filing in Quebec, which can’t be said for many other software.
It is worthy of note here though that although AdvTax’s platform is easy and quick to use, it can be a little off-putting at first sight. It is extremely text-heavy and is poorly designed.
Still, the website is easy to use. All the tax forms that are available are shown in the navigation bar on the left of the screen (if you’re using a desktop computer or a laptop). Just pick what suits your tax return needs and get to work. You can download your return to your device once you’re done filling it and you can also upload it to the CRA NETFILE.
For simple tax returns, you can be done in as little as 5 minutes. AdvTax works on desktop and mobile browsers on the Windows, Android, Mac and iOS platforms. The software is also available for use in Chinese, French, and English.
This software works much like SimpleTax. One of the most obvious similarities is that GenuTax also operates a donation model. The software relies on donations to be able to keep supporting its developers and keeping the software fresh and updated. With this tax return software, Canadians can file for most of their tax situations from personal income and self-employment to investment and rental properties income.
As for some of its encouraging features:
1. GenuTax is a multi-year tax return software. When tax season comes around, users of the software can file tax returns for the present tax year as well as for tax years going as far back as any or all of the years in the past decade
2. It has an easy-to-comprehend interview-style guide that helps you fully understand your tax situation and claim every deduction or credit that you are entitled to
3. The software allows you to file up to the accepted maximum of 20 tax returns. This means that if you are filing tax returns for 20 people, you can file for all 20 of them for each of the tax return years available on the software. And there is no limitation on a person’s income level
Even though GenuTax lets you file your returns for almost any possible tax situations, there are a few restrictions that prevent you from using GenuTax:
1. If you plan to file a pre-bankruptcy or post-bankruptcy tax return or,
2. If your business owned a permanent establishment outside your territory or province of residence at the end of the tax year
3. If you are a farmer and a participant in any or both of the AgriInvest or AgriStability programs
4. If you own or manage foreign property valued at over CAD $100,000 and more
In the case of owning property worth over $100,000, you will need to fill a T1135 Foreign Income Verification Form. While you can download Form T1135 from GenuTax’s website, you can’t fill it or file it using GenuTax. You’ll have to manually fill the printed version and mail it to the CRA’s Winnipeg Taxation Center using the address shown on the form. The rest of your tax returns can be done separately using the software and electronically filed to the CRA.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of GenuTax is that it is solely Windows-compliant, which means if you use a Mac or any mobile device, you won’t be able to use it. Also, the software is available to Quebec taxpayers, but only for filing federal taxes; for provincial tax returns or corporate tax returns, Quebec residents will need another software.
While there is no mobile version of this software, UFile currently serves more than a million tax-paying Canadians every year. These taxpayers use either their web-based software or the offline, Windows or Mac option.
This software has both a paid and free option, however, there are certain criteria that you can use to judge which one you are eligible for. To be able to use UFile’s free version, you must meet at least one of the following requirements:
1. You must have finished with your secondary education
2. Your entire family income should be less than CAD $20,000
3. You should be filing your tax return for the first time
4. You should be a recipient of Guaranteed Income Supplement
5. Your only income should be coming from T4 tax slips
6. You should be a dependent
If you do not hit at least one of these requirements, then you’ll need to get a paid version of the software which offers more robust features. UFile’s paid options start at $17.95.
With UFile, you can also access over 230 forms and slips; carry forward your taxes; import your tax file from TurboTax’s desktop products for free (for new UFile users); split your pension income; auto-fill your return, store a copy of your tax returns for the past 9 years; view your notice of assessment; file your returns for free; and resubmit previously filed returns.
The tax return software is fully available in Quebec and offers the triple guarantee of Accuracy, Satisfaction, and the Best Tax Result. It is perfect for filing tax returns of employees, pensioners, small business owners, students and more, no matter the level of complexity.
7. H&R Block
This, the last tax return software for Canadians on our list has one of the most interesting business models. H&R Block isn’t your typical free or paid tax software.
Instead, it uses a promo-period type of model. What this means is that every year, during the tax season from February 1st to April 30th, this software is available to its users for free. But you can purchase add-ons such as last will and testament, audit protection, and expert review.
With this you can get access to the expected features: notice of assessment, comparison of tax returns from different years, importing of past returns, auto-fill return, maximum tax refund guarantee and more. If you earn higher returns or lower taxes with another software, H&R Block will pay you back the purchase price for that software.
H&R Block is a juggernaut for the brick and mortar tax return sector and has been for a very long time, however, it is a relatively new player in the online tax return niche. The paid versions of H&R’s online tax return products cost anywhere from $9.99 to $24.99, depending on your particular tax situation. If you need the services of their tax experts, it is still available.
None of these tax return software has it all.
Regardless of your tax needs and situation, all the options on this list have strengths that will make you excited and weaknesses that will make you flinch.
So to cap it all, the best software to employ is the one that best fits your needs and sometimes the only way to find out which one is to try them all out. Hectic it may seem, but it’s worth it in the long run.
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Top 7 Tax Return Software
- FREE to file tax return
- Simple to use and get started
- 7 of the best tax return softwares in Canada
- You might need to jump up to the paid version to gain more advanced features
- Some of the tax return softwares are desktop only version or software based