Canadian Tax Software Options

Now that we are all gearing up for tax season, it’s time for you to figure out how you will prepare your tax return. While some Canadians find that it makes sense to hire an accountant or other tax professional to handle their returns, most Canadians like to prepare their own taxes with the help of software.

In most cases, tax software can be helpful since it provides guidance when filling out your form, and can even help you file, without the higher prices associated with using a tax professional. If you’re looking to use tax software to file your income taxes this year, you might be wondering which program you should use and what major differences there are between each program. Here is a general idea of what you can expect from each choice:

Paid Tax Software

Most of us think of paid tax software initially. When it comes to paid tax software, two names probably come to mind: TurboTax and Ufile. Both have installable programs as well as online versions. Additionally, both are certified for NETFILE, which can help you get access to your refund faster.

My recommendation for paid tax software is UFile. It has a lower price than TurboTax, especially if you have a simple return to file. Making it an even better deal, students and those with a family income under $20,000 can use the online version of UFile for free. Those that are using the online version do not need to pay extra to file for their dependants. UFile is available in all the provinces, and the product and pricing structure is simple.

Another good option for paid tax software is TurboTax, which might still be more familiar to Canadians as QuickTax. The name was changed for the 2010 version. I find TurboTax to be the a user friendly and complete tax software program for a wide variety of situations, although it’s certainly not the cheapest. If you are concerned about price, in most situations UFile will serve you better.

Other paid options that you can turn to when it comes to paid tax software include:

  • H&R Block: You can find a free version of this tax software as well, although there are add-ons that can make this software expensive. This is user friendly, and probably the best choice for paid returns after UFile and TurboTax.
  • EachTax: Very inexpensive returns starting at $5.99, plus $3.00 for additional returns.
  • FutureTax: While not as user friendly, this has a low price, starting at $5.99 and providing an option of 20 returns for $17.99, which is quite inexpensive.
  • myTaxExpress: This software may not have NETFILE capability, but the returns are inexpensive, starting at $6.99.
  • Tax Chopper: This is an online program that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux, and starts at $9.98.
  • TaxFreeway: With this software, you can use it in conjunction with the CRA auto-fill. It’s also compatible with iPad in addition to desktop. The cost starts at $9.95.
  • TaxTron: There is a free version for those with under $31,000 total household income. Otherwise, pricing starts at $19.95.

Free Tax Software

In the past, free tax software programs haven’t always been so polished and user friendly. However, there are some free tax software programs that offer a good experience while still covering what you need. You might be surprised at what’s available. My two favorite free programs are both NETFILE certified, making them good choices for tax filing.

My recommendation for free tax software is SimpleTax. SimpleTax is a relatively new entrant into the tax application space. I like the clean design and the simple user interface. The company’s founders include a tax attorney, developer, and designer, so everything is accurate and easy to use. This is a program that allows you to pay what you want, if anything. For most tax filers, SimpleTax is likely enough for what is needed to prepare your taxes effectively.

StudioTax is a solid program that you might want to try. I used it to file tax returns in the past, and found it did the job just fine. However, I like the user interface of SimpleTax better, which is why I’ve changed my recommendation this year. One nice thing about StudioTax is that it does include Quebec provincial returns, which is something that SimpleTax doesn’t offer yet. If you live in Quebec and are looking for a free program, this is probably the best choice for you.

Other free tax software options:

  • AdvTax: This stripped down software isn’t as intuitive or user friendly, but it gets the job done for simple returns, and it even has support in Chinese in addition to French and English, and can support a Quebec provincial return.
  • GenuTax: You might not be able to use NETFILE with this program. However, it is free and can provide you with the ability to file past year returns as well.

Carefully consider what is likely to work best for you, and make a decision based on your own needs.

What tax software have you used recently? Any features you liked or any problems you had?

Written by Tom Drake

Tom Drake is the owner and head writer of Canadian Finance Blog. While you’re here, consider signing up for the RSS feed or email subscription. Both deliver the latest articles directly to you! You can also follow me on Twitter for all the latest posts or to send me any comments or questions!

24 Responses to Canadian Tax Software Options

  1. I have used Ufile now for a few years. Overall, I’m pleased with ease of use. I did have a difficult time getting the program to make the correct adjustments when I had to replace a nearly new notebook computer whose value was not totally depreciated.

    • I used ufile last year and thought it was great; however, I did the full operation start to finish in one sitting. This year I completed the tax returns for my family members, paid and saved the information as I wanted to check one thing. When I returned to complete the process I found what I thought was the password I set up wasn’t. I used the password reset funnction but never received the reset password. I’ve sent multiple emails with no response. The support for this software is abysmal. I now need to pay another provider in order to do my tax returns and start from scratch. If you need any support dont use Ufile. There is none.

      • Joy. Ditto. I have been using this software for the past few years and worked just fine. But this year there is a problem.When I click on T4A (P) to enter the amount from box 20 on my TA4(A)slip there is no corresponding box 20. It shows box 14 in red. and when I enter the amount from box 20 and i click next for the page works ok. But when I click for the next page again it takes me back to box 14.I sent them two emails for help 2 wks go. I am still waiting for an answer. I am going to use another software to do my tax this year and good by for ever to Ufile.

  2. I had used QuickTax for most of the past decade. Last year we had 2 returns to file after we got married so I looked at the lower cost UFile option. Both work very well. This year I think i’ll try them both out (one for myself, one for Mrs. SPF) and figure out which I prefer (and i’ll write about it too!).

  3. I’ve used StudioTax the past two years and I’m going to use it again for 2010. I also buy a thick tax book from KPMG every 5 years or so. Between the two and the the info CRA sends, I have my taxes down pat. The program does leave a lot of junk in the registry when you uninstall but hey, it’s FREE!

    There is no excuse for not doing your own taxes. It gets quite easy after a few years.

  4. Oh thanks for the review Tom. I was actually just recently wondering which program I should use to do my taxes.

  5. Another vote for Studio Tax, two or three years running and I’ll definitely be using it again for 2010!!!

    I feel kind of bad that the guys behind Studio Tax have done all that hard work and get nothing but our thanks and gratitude; but I believe really strongly in NOT paying to pay your taxes!

  6. I’ve been using UFile for several years and I’ve been very happy with it. It works very well for fairly complicated returns involving investments, multiple income sources, and even business income.

    It also typically allows you to file up to 8 returns so it is easy to share with friends and family to save money.

  7. I am surprised you do not include H&R Block “At Home” in your review. It seems quite widely used. I switched from QuickTax/TurboTax 2 years ago, and find this much easier to use and more comprehensive. At $29.95 it is a bargain. I find it great for couples, small business, commission income , etc.

  8. I have used Studiotax for several years now. T4 and rental income. I agree with comments above in that it is a solid program. Able to do everything you can do on paper.

  9. I have used QuickTax for the last several years and am considering UFILE for 2010. Has anyone had problems with UFILE for self employment and/or farming income? QuickTax has worked well for me but I’m finding it expensive.

  10. I am a non-resident property investor (residential houses only). Does anyone know if I can use any of these software products to complete my annual Canadian tax return? Do some of these products only work for residents?

    • Make sure you ask the CRA what you need to submit and what other things you need to do. We left Canada for 5 years while owning (a triplex, residential) rental property in Canada and should have filled in a declaration of what property we own before we left and should have used withholding accounts into which 25% of the gross rents should have been deposited until you get the difference back at tax time. We did fill in our Section 216 returns every year but it was messy when we tried to sort it all out later. I think UFile (might be their premier version) does have S216s but their customer service is so terrible that it becomes a major stressor if you need any guidance. I recommend finding an accountant that is experienced with international and rental property filing, go with her the first year, then use her return to fill out your own next year along with phoning the CRA when you need info (always write down the rep number, date, and what advice they gave as they often contradict each other).

  11. I entered my tax info into both Ufile and Turbotax to see how they compared. Despite entering the exact same tax information Turbotax says my refund is $800 more than Ufile. The difference appears to be with how much each program is deducting for the ‘equivalent to spouse amount’. I don’t know which one is correct but I guess I will file with Turbotax since it is offering me a bigger refund. Anyone know why the programs have different amounts ‘allowable’?

  12. TurboTax 2011
    Every year this software gets worse. From text on a 24? monitor that is so small you can barely see it to a more ridiculously confused interface each year for the last twelve years I swear I will do my taxes on the paper forms. It would be much easier. I have never been one to like fully automatic software when problems arise, anyway, but…

    This year I got roped into spending almost $40 to use the auto-calc pension splitting version. Last year it was included in the cheap package but an incorrect slip from my previous employer had already been put through, on it. Well TurboTax can’t do correction submissions and after using it to calc the best pension split I submitted the result by hand. Next thing I get back bills from the governement to pay more taxes! Turns out that TurboTax forgot some of my slips on the new calculation and calculated using old totals before some of the slips were entered. I reviewed this for days trying to figure out what happenned only to find some slips that I verified, as entered, with checkmarks, were forgotten in the latest save.
    This year (2011) I have entered all my slips into their fancy, easy entry, method and finally gave up with the confusion, and self promotion spam included, having to guess what deduction slip entries I would make. I saved the files and exited out of TurboTax, then reopened to see if I would get a fresh choice of the entering slips method, instead. Eventually I found the menu to switch and now all my entries are gone. Two complete tax returns filled with zeros! Again TurboTax didn’t save the latest information to the file I had designated.

    This thing has no recollection of carry forward or carry backward investment losses from other years and each year it has to be re-entered, after you find your income tax forms from 2003 to 2010. I hope you have them all in printed form, ’cause not likely you can ever open your old files… assuming you have never had a computer crash in the last seven or eight years. Old versions are not assessible from the latest version and the old versions don’t install in Win 7 due to poor code O/S interface call writing habits from these guys.

    Assuming you get past all these hurdles you will have to put up with Intuit’s spamware on every third page asking you to buy one of their products. grrrrrr. After the experiences I have had with this “junk” I wouldn’t touch another Intuit product if it was free. I have been looking for other Tax prep software companies, for the last few years, but Intuit owns them all. All other have been purchased by them and shut down. hmmmmm… H&R just got involved. Next year I will be looking or just do it by hand with a calculator! I was always good with math anyway.

  13. I definately do not recommend TurboTax! In the past I have stayed away from Intuit products after having heard horror stories regarding their poor customer service. After having heard rave reviews about the TurboTax online version from someone I trust, I decided to try it out for myself. Unfortunately, I had the misfortune of discovering a bug related to how the provincial forms were reporting that did not exist in the installed version. After spending a 3 hour chat support session trying to troubleshoot the issue, I was finally told that I needed to contact one of their free online tax advice agents to ensure that I was entering the information correctly and the agent refused to give me an incident # to refer to if needed. The tax support agent I spoke with was extremely helpful, but was not in a position to provide the customer support that the chat agent had promised he could. The fee tax advice agent still spent a couple of hours assisting me as best he could and was able to determine that there was indeed a bug and that the product I had purchases would not be usable for the type of return I needed to file. He typed up a comprehensive email outline the issue I had, the troubleshooting we did and told me that he would escalate the issue for me and to expect their customer service department to contact me the following day to make arrangements for me to obtain a free download link that I could use instead. I was not contacted the following day so I reached out to them for further assistance. At that point I was told that I would need to pay for the download link which was double the cost of what I had paid for the online version and that it would take two weeks to process a refund for the online version with I bug that I had already purchased. I was put on hold multiple times and each person that I escalated my concern to spoke to me in a more and more disrespectful tone of voice. I was told that there was absolutely no way to provide me with a download link without me purchasing it and that the prices were non-negotiable. When I was told that I couldn’t be trusted to not use the software to submit the full 20 returns that are possible with the desktop version, I then suggested that they connect me with a technical support person who could watch me input my numbers and then uninstall the software as soon as my single return was filed. They were completely unwilling to work with me and work out any type of compromise in the name of customer service and told me that it was unreasonable of me to have the expectation that I should not have to put out additional money because of a proven bug in their product and that it didn’t matter how high I kept escalating the issue, no one would ever authorize a way for me to obtain the download link without paying the extra money for it upfront. When I insisted that I talk to someone else further up the ladder I was told that they are busy people and that I could wait, but that it may take an hour or longer for someone to take me off hold. By that point I no longer even cared about getting the download link, but wanted to speak with someone about the negative customer experience I was encountering. I was put on hold for 45 minutes before the connection was simply disconnected. Bugs happen; it’s not ideal, but it can happen. When a company’s product does contain a bug however, they should apologize and ensure that their customer’s needs met to the best of their ability. I actually liked the product and would have probably used it in subsequent years even with having encountered a bug if Intuit had valued me as a customer. Following this experience, however, Intuit has lost my business forever and I will be sure to forewarn my family and friends so that none of them will have to encounter the poor customer service that I did!

  14. The online from uFile.ca has a very bad quality of work. After I have followed all procedure that uFile provided, my child care fee from my dependant will not go to lien 214 of one of our lower income parent.

    The help and support is only interested in opening my Tax file and ignored the problem.

  15. I used to use CanTax, and its predecessor, which I don’t remember. When CanTax got taken over by Quicken, a lot of its features were taken out and put in a more expensive version, and TurboTax kept that concept alive. I’ve used Ufile for a few years now, and its ok, not as friendly as the old CanTax was. One basic thing I miss is the ability to drill down on any number on any form anywhere, and it would take you back to how it got there. With Ufile, its a lot of manual tracing.

    I started with CanTax’s predecessor in order to be able to Netfile. Now at least you can do it with free software, and online through Revenue Canada. I found it ironic that I had to pay to save Revenue Canada time in processing my return. Also, when you consider that the software changes perhaps 10% year over year, to keep paying full price for a new version gives the software companies a license to print money, and to charge 50% more for what used to be in the basic CanTax makes it even worse.

    Tom, could you expand your reviews to include comparisons of usability features such as drill-down, tax planning, etc.?

  16. I use both Turbo Tax and U File. they are both good, however I prefer Turbo Tax as I can jump right into forms and the help files are better as well in Turbo Tax.
    Both Programs, have a good review functions, that takes U right to the source that needs change..
    UFile has a hiccup when trying to efile, it keeps asking for soap to be installed in the file Library, if more than one person is included in the return.

  17. I have used StudioTax for about 5 years, and it’s great. And this year, it incorporates the NetFile aspect (it sends the TAX file for you to CRA instead of sending it separately using the NetFile website). The only minor nuissance is that because it is a downloaded program (not web-based) is that I need to keep a Windows computer available (I use Linux for everything else).

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