StudioTax Tax Software Review

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 screen shotStudioTax 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. StudioTax works on Windows and starting in the 2013 tax year they’ve added a version for Mac as well.

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!

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!

41 Responses to StudioTax Tax Software Review

  1. I don’t think I’ve heard of StudioTax before; but, now that you mention its free, maybe I’ll give it a try!

    Can you still use the program to get an ‘estimate’ as to how your taxes are supposed to turn out or is its sole intention to file online for you?

    • I have been using StudioTax for a few years. You can file online or simply use it to do an estimate for you, or check the math of another program. It can also print out a return for you to mail in if you don’t want to file online. Really, it’s win win all around.

  2. I have been using StudioTax for years and it does give you the option of “What If” scenerios. It does everything the other tax preparation softwares do and it is free.

  3. This is my 3rd year using Studio Tax. I do my wife’s and my taxes with it including our small unincorporated business and it works like a charm. Highly recommended.

  4. I used StudioTax last year for myself, husband, parents, and grandparent; I also did a sanity check with quicktax. The two gave almost identical results for most of us, and Quicktax gave a slightly higher return for my husband for some reason, never could figure out why.

    My question is, I couldn’t find anywhere to claim the HRTC on StudioTax 2009, am I missing something?

    • To claim the HRTC credit in StudioTax:

      1. Answer yes to the HRTC question during the wizard

      Or if you missed it:

      2. Add Schedule 12 to your tax return by pressing the Forms button.

  5. I’ve used StudioTax the last three years and I’m going to use it again this year. Apart from the visual look which could be a bit more polished the only other issue I have with it is that it doesn’t do Quebec taxes – so I still have to do those by hand.

    I still think the CRA should have online forms for completing your taxes.

  6. I used StudioTax for our 2008 returns and was thoroughly impressed with its ease of use and, of course, with its price.

    I will gratefully contribute to this small but very professional team rather than further bloat the coffers of Intuit et al.

    Highly recommended.

  7. I tried a few software and found Studio Tax is the best. I am impressed with its professional design and friendly interface.

    You guys did a great job!!

  8. I can’t believe I only found this now.. If all goes well I will drop a few dollars to the developers.. Still going strong for 2011 season..

  9. Used Studio Tax first time for 2010 tax return. I got audited for my medical expenses. I had to submit all receipts and a declaration as to the 12 month period covered. I could not find a place to indicate the 12 month period used for medical expenses when filling the forms in Studio Tax. Did I miss something?
    Coco

  10. Your review of StudioTax is signed but not dated. And you don’t mention the year of the program. You can’t review it one time and be truthful for years there after. Products change and improve.

    I used StudioTax 2010. Enjoyed it over GenuTax 2009, 2008. But didn’t like not being able to edit the form directly after going through the interview. I didn’t like the lack of hyperlinks to supporting data. I didn’t think the help references switching to the internet particularly easy to navigate.

    I was looking to hear the review mention some improvement of the 2011 version. But your article is hiding the most relevant information. When and what was reviewed. Shame on your journalistic ethic.

  11. I emailed the support team. “I thought you were legit and I almost used your software to file my taxes but there are grammatical errors such as using your instead of you’re so I wonder if you are a fake program designed to get my personal information.”

    I expected one of two things. 1) no response if in fact you were not a legit company. or 2) an apology with the reassurance that these errors would be corrected and the wish to have me as a customer.
    ________________________

    The response I actually received:

    Really? you based your investigation on grammatical errors? Over the last 7 years we heard all sort of weird and wonderful things about the software…this one take the top price for the weird category!

    Of course, you will not trust us if we tell you that StudioTax is as legit as the best software out there.

    Warmest Regards,
    StudioTax Support Team (support@studiotax.com)
    __________________________________

    I think customer service has left the building.

    • Colleen go to the CRA Website and they are one of the few approved software’s …And have you ever heard if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.

    • Lighten up, it’s freeware, it’s been around for 10 years, it’s been ok’d by CRA and best of all I like it ;)

      If you’re really nice maybe they’ll give you a refund.

  12. More “professional” customer service.
    On Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 10:42 PM, StudioTax Support wrote:
    You have no idea how much hard work and long hours went into developing the software over many years. Other companies spend millions of dollars to develop similar software and they make 100s of millions on the back of Canadians selling it. On the other hand we give it for free and we even spend long hours answering users emails to help them do their taxes…and because of a grammatical error you accuse us to be scams trying to steal your information?????

    My response:
    Regardless of how you feel about my reasons, you are supposed to represent your company in a respectful and professional manner. That more than anything keeps me from wanting to have anything at all to do with you. (You personally now). A viable company should not send me sarcastic emails. It should apologize for the unprofessional content of the software, assure me that you will forward this oversight to your supervisor and that you would hope this small mistake would not keep me from using your software.

    • Colleen,
      Really? How many customer service professionals do you expect they hire using the fee you paid for the product?

      For that price, the only thing I expect of the software is that it counts correctly, and StudioTax does much more than that. This was the third year I used it quite contently. The unique interface takes a minute getting used to, and beyond that it’s smooth sailing.

    • Colleen,

      There are many other PAID options out there. For the rest of us who aren’t offended by poor grammar it works splendid! StudioTax is a great FREE tax program.

    • No one in the world likes being “accused” wrongfully. If you suspected the software was not legit, just walk away. If you liked the software which is free, and found a problem just report it “professionally”.

    • You know Colleen, I’m with you all the way. Free doesn’t have to mean rude/sarcastic/entitled. The customer is always right. We are still customers when the service is free. Customer service drives success. If I get GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE for a free product, I would pay for the product if they ever decided to charge for it, because I had previously enjoyed a great experience dealing with them. About what other users say, “don’t use it if you don’t like it” Well, we don’t use it, and I thought a website with reviews allowed for good and bad reviews, so stop being such nobs with someone that had something unfavorable to say. I came to check the reviews to decide if I should give this product a try, and this incident has made me decide to go with Intuit. Good luck to you all.
      P.S: Jasper: “Really? How many customer service professionals do you expect they hire using the fee you paid for the product?” You don’t hire customer service professionals. You just need to act professionally yourself ;)

  13. Hi there, I have a question pls if you can help me, I couldn’t find anywhere to claim the Annual Maintenance Credit on Studio Tax 2011. What am I missing?? thank you!!

    Lavi

  14. Hello,
    When I save file in studio Tax it saves in .11t format.
    I need to save in .tax format.
    Please advise.

  15. Colleen is absolutely right. I too was thinking of using studiotax, but when I saw all the spelling errors on their web site, I changed my mind. It all seemed strange that a company could develop sophisticated tax software but couldn’t spell simple words.

    I hope I am wrong about the company, but in the meantime I will not be using it. In this day and age of identity theft, is it really worth saving two or three dollars in postage fees to use a free product of dodgy description? Come on people, think a bit. I don’t want to be reading about a bunch of Canadians who lost their identity to a Chinese hacking firm.

    • Identity theft? You don’t give Studio Tax any information before you download the product. If you are very wary you can use the software on a computer that is not hooked up to the internet then print and mail the forms. Or you can Netfile and use the same process as you would for any other (not fee) tax preparation software.

      (I hope I managed to type the above without grammatical errors!)

  16. Good to see that we don’t have to pay for something that every Canadian taxpayer legally HAS to do. Sorry, Mr. Harper — I’m sure you wanted to help out your corporate friends!

  17. Used StudioTax for the first time this year (2012 tax year) for my return and my wife’s (in Quebec, so federal and provincial). Despite the early 2000s style interface, I found it to work pretty well. However, it is much less interactive than the other program I usually use. The wizard covers the main questions, like dependents and medical expenses, but doesn’t go over all the possibilities and special cases. You must go over the forms one by one to make sure everything is filled out. I double-checked my return by re-entering all the data in that other program (for which you only pay if you submit or print it) and there was a difference in the total refund (in Studiotax the dependents had been claimed on the less-advantageous return). So I overrode Studiotax defaults and then everything matched up. The submitting of the forms went very well.

    So I don’t think I’ll be using StudioTax next year, mostly because I don’t have complete confidence that it will guide me towards the most advantageous options, but also a tiny bit because of the low quality interface.

  18. WITH STUDIO TAX, HOW CAN I INPUT LANDING DATE FOR FIRST TIME TAX FILING OF A NEW IMMIGRANT?
    I NEED YOUR HELP. THANKS A LOT.

  19. WITH STUDIO TAX, HOW CAN I INPUT LANDING DATE FOR FIRST TIME TAX FILING OF A NEW IMMIGRANT?
    I NEED YOUR HELP. THANKS A LOT.

  20. I file a paper return every year and am sad to learn in 2014 you will have to file electronically. It is ironic someone has to spend their own money to show the government what they did with their own money. I like to opt for the free services and StudioTax looks promising.

    Here is what helps me on my tax returns:
    I start my taxes by getting a blank piece of paper and the folder that holds all my 2012 tax stuff, t4’s t5’s and forms etc.. then
    1 – make a heading for T4 another for T5 etc…
    2 – make box number headings from corresponding form underneath each heading with amount and line number they go to on the tax return.

    I check them off as I enter them. That way I know haven’t missed anything.

  21. I have used this program for my 2012 and 2013 return and I can’t believe how easy it was to use!!! No more paper return for me!

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