While TurboTax and UFile are both great tax preparation programs, there are other alternatives that will do the job and are completely free. Canadians have plenty of options when it comes to preparing their taxes, and one of the best free choices is StudioTax. Hopefully this StudioTax review will help a few more Canadians find out about this free tax software alternative.
StudioTax includes a Quick Start Wizard that takes you through most of your taxes. StudioTax is a full featured program, including support for those that are self employed and those with investments or rental income. You can file your federal and provincial returns, and the program is also compatible with returns in Quebec.
It’s also worth noting that, unlike the paid programs, that only allow filing 8 returns, Studiotax will let you file 20, which is the maximum that the CRA will allow to be eligible for NetFile. If you have more than 20 returns that need to be filed, or if you are a tax professional, you can use StudioTax Enterprise. This version of the software will allow you to prepare your first 20 returns free, and if you want to file more returns, you can pay $169.50 (taxes included) for unlimited tax returns.
Things to Keep in Mind When You Use StudioTax
StudioTax does have built in update checking, though it seems to only be a manual link, not run when the program starts. So if you installed StudioTax earlier in the year, be sure to update to the latest version to get any fixes or improvements to the software. You want to make sure that you have the latest version, since tax laws change nearly every year. Unfortunately, StudioTax also does not support importing previous returns from other programs. If you used a different tax program last year, you will have to manually enter your information. Once you begin using StudioTax, you can import the previous year’s data quickly and easily.
The other small issue I have is with the visual presentation. While it does what it needs to do, a more polished look would give it a feeling of being more user friendly and would help more Canadians to view it on the same level as TurboTax and UFile. However, the functionality is solid, and the questions asked by the program can help guide you through the process.
Realize, too, that not all situations are covered. For tax year 2012, StudioTax doesn’t handle Form T1273 STATEMENT A – Harmonized CAIS Program Information and Statement of Farming Activities for Individuals. Also, there might be some instances when your situation is complex enough that, evening using tax prep software, you can’t sort it out. In those cases, a program with dedicated support, or even an accountant, might make more sense for you.
Support StudioTax if You’re Happy with the Service
Started in 2004, StudioTax was developed by a group of software developers from Ottawa and has been gaining in popularity every year since. StudioTax requires no registration, and no license key, to download and install. You need to be running a Microsoft Windows operating system in order to use StudioTax, so Mac users are out of luck, unless they run a parellel system.
While StudioTax is free, the company does accept donations. If you like the program, consider sending them a few dollars to show your appreciation for all the effort they have put into it!