StudioTax 2015 Review: A Free Tax Software Alternative

With tax season upon us, it’s time to start thinking about how you will prepare your taxes. What makes the most sense for you? Which program is going to allow you to prepare your taxes easily and accurately? And can you really get good tax software for free?

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.

I have used StudioTax in the past. In fact, it has been my preferred free tax software. I still think StudioTax is a great choice, and can work really well for many Canadians preparing their own taxes.

 

StudioTax Features

StudioTax includes a Quick Start Wizard that takes you through most of your taxes. The Quick Start Wizard is great because it allows you to enter your information step by step and move forward in a logical manner. The process is straightforward and simple, and can help you manage most of your tax needs. StudioTax is CRA certified, and is even compatible with Revenue Quebec (except the Mac version, which does not support Quebec provincial returns). You can use this program on Windows or Mac.

StudioTax is a full featured program, including support for those that are self employed and those with investments or rental income. This can be helpful since an increasing number of Canadians are involved with investing and with side gigs. Using StudioTax can help you manage all of these issues without too much trouble.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike many of 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

If you decide to use StudioTax, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. While I like the program overall, there are some quirks to be aware of.

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, but it can be a hassle if you start using StudioTax this year after using other programs in previous years.

StudioTax Screenshot

The other small issue I have is with the visual presentation. While StudioTax does what it needs to do, a more polished look would give it a feeling of being more user friendly. Additionally, a more professional look 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, even if it doesn’t always look pretty.

Realize, too, that not all situations are covered. There are some situations, including Harmonised Tax, that might not always be included. 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. While StudioTax can handle the needs of most Canadians, it’s not perfect, and if you have a very complex situation, it might make much more sense to get more professional and personalized help.

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 there is a version for Mac as well.

While StudioTax is free for you to download and use as you see fit, 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.

StudioTax is a full featured program that's free to use. This StudioTax review found that StudioTax is a great free alternative to TurboTax and UFile.

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!

65 Responses to StudioTax 2015 Review: A Free Tax Software Alternative

  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 TurboTax. The two gave almost identical results for most of us, and TurboTax gave a slightly higher return for my husband for some reason, never could figure out why.

  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 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. 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.

  9. 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.

    • This will be the third year I’ve used Studiotax and I am happy enough with it that I give them a small donation.

      I think that you are carrying it a little far to suggest that the developers are not “legit” and the software is “fake” because of a minor grammatical error. If I was one of the developers, I would not feel very good after receiving such accusations over a minor detail. I’ve seen grammatical errors in major newspapers, so are they “fake” or not “legit”? The company doesn’t have the resources of the commercial boys, yet it is approved by CRA and it works.

      • Hello,this is amazing that someone can complain about grammatical errors or whatever makes you annoyed and receive it for free. I am a Tax Preparer and certified. I have done taxes over 20 yrs. By paper and using software. I just did a return and found it so easy and fast and clear. I help people for free doing taxes who are disabled and poverty strickened.I get nothing in return like getting paid.it’s just my volunteering and helping someone in worst situation then me. I count my blessings there are developers out there offering this for free and not pay.Why should someone pay for a program to do taxes.I have also used Turbo tax without restrictions and equally good. I believe you have to educate yourself in doing taxes manually and knowing your schedules instead of criticizing. Spend more time on doing taxes instead of immaterial little things. Go out and buy a software. I will support the developers. Also you have NetfIle how great is that. All I know is I have more money in my pocket for not buying a tax software. Have gratitude and respect that’s all.
        Thank you
        Nadia

  10. 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 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 over 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.

  11. More “professional” customer service.
    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 😉

    • Oh Colleen, there’s always that one person that has to complain for no real reason. They owe you nothing. You didn’t waste your money on this program since it’s free, just your time was wasted….and since you continue to post about Studio Tax on here about their errors…you clearly have time to waste !

      Get off the internet and go fly a kite Colleen. 🙂

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

    Lavi

  13. Hello,
    When I save file in studio Tax it saves in a different format.
    I need to save in .tax format.
    Please advise.

  14. 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 free) tax preparation software.

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

  15. Used StudioTax in the 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.

    I haven’t used StudioTax since, 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.

  16. 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.

  17. I file a paper return every year and was 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 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.

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

  19. I file my taxes manually (pen, paper and calculator) like I have for the last 40 years. It find it helps prevent Alzheimer’s. 🙂

  20. Colleen: For someone so concerned with grammatical errors, you should have proofread your own post. You have no grasp on the proper use of punctuation or capitalization. Maybe you are here trying to steal all of our information… Or… Maybe you are just someone from another software company that has been paid to plant a bad review. Some customers (aka trolls) do not deserve service when they have bad manners and a poor attitude.

  21. For some reason StudioTax 2014 was buggy for me and kept pointing out errors and eventually after using TurboTax had short changed me over $500 in refunds.

  22. I’ve been using this program for at least 5 years (and TurboTax and Quicken before that) and it is excellent. I think the difference is that StudioTax was written from the ground up to support Canadian Taxes vs being a program that is modified to support specific countries from the big guys. It’s not as flashy but perfectly easy to use and I’ve never had an issue. It generates paper, efile and PDF formats and allows you to do what ifs and optimizes between spouses automatically. I ALWAYS donate to them after successfully filing my expenses. I recommend it to all my friends and families.

  23. First, I want to say I love your program and have been using it for the last four years and since I have no complaints, I will continue to use it. Those that worry about fraud or security issues, should do their research.
    My problem today tho, is I am having problems with trying to submit my return to the CRA.
    I work with google chrome on windows vista. I keep getting the error message “remote name could not be resolved” ‘apps.cra-arc.gc.ca’.
    Does anyone know how I can fix this? Need help asap.

  24. I am trying to use studio tax and I can’t figure out how to get the forms large enough to see! All I am getting are tiny forms and and box on the lower left that is only partial and won’t take data. What am I doing wrong?

  25. I have used StudioTax for several years now for my personal income tax. It is super easy to use (I have tried others). I’m a single mom and struggle to make ends meet so this free software is great. I always make a small donation whenever I file however. Thanks StudioTax!

  26. This is a great free tax software. I’ve been using this to prepare tax for myself and my spouse since 2007. Simple to use and you can actually import tax report from ufile as they both use same filename extension. In terms of security of info, this is secured as you have the option to just download the software, disconnect from the internet/network and prepare and print your tax for mailing. This software is certified by CRA! In the past, they are able to assist me in rectifying problems at no cost!

    What’s great
    – easy to use
    – excellent layout
    – excellent support
    – CRA certified for NetFile on both Windows and Mac platform
    – it’s free for up to 20 returns

    Wish List
    – how they include ios and Linux platform in the future

  27. What do you do when trying to netfile it tells you you’ve transferred disability credit from your spouse but you have not. On checking my return, I find no claim for same on either the T4AP summary or on Schedule 1. My husband has enough income to claim his own disability and he did. Any solution for
    this hiccup?

  28. Override Capital Gain subtotal in Sch.#3 (StudioTax):
    For it’s Personal Portfolio Services (let’s leave the cost/benefit of this for another conversation!!), CIBC Wealth Management provides an annual “Client Tax Satement – Gains (Losses) from Sale of Securities”. There is a long list of transactions and related particulars, but there is also a overall Gain(Loss).

    In previous years, I was able to enter this the overall Gain into Schedule 3 as the subtotal “Gain (or loss)” for Section/Paragraph#3 (“Publicly traded shares, mutual funds, etc…”). I could do this because I was either completing the paper returns manually or using a spreadsheet-based return known as MyTax (MyTax lets me punch in the number).

    I moved to StudioTax this year because MyTax 2014 is not available. In StudioTax’s Schedule 3, the subtotal “Gain (or loss)” for Section/Paragraph#3 is a “computed field”, and I cannot directly enter the overall Gain. Instead, the form requires all the particulars for each transaction, and the fields do not match those in the CIBC statement.

    Is there a way to override the computed field so that I can directly enter the overall Gain from the CIBC statement? I do not consider it feasible for me to figure out what has to go into the form otherwise. In previous years, I’ve tried a number of times to delve into the technicalities of how to generate the required data from the CIBC data, and it is a neverending labyrinth. I suspect that forensic accountants might be able to figure it out with sumpreme effort, but that’s hypothetical scenario is not helpful in this reality.

  29. StudioTax is great, and I used it for the past 7 returns. I should point out that there is a glitch that prevents display of T3 and other slips on a netbook in the T slips tab. The view size function doesn’t work either for that tab, and the two phenomena may be related; I feel if the magnification could be made smaller, those other slip forms would appear. Results may vary with machine, but the problem isn’t new. They are available in the tree-view, elsewhere, however.

    All the slips under that tab are fully visible in the Mac version, incidentally.

  30. I have used Studio Tax for the last 8 or 9 years. Great program! There were some complaints about customer service in the comments. Which are unjust. I have had some questions over the years and always had a reply in 4 hours.

    These guys are not a multimillion dollar corporation. They are programmers and I assume some accountants are mixed in. They do an awesome job all around.

  31. This is the first year I actually broke down and used the software to do my taxes instead of paper. I was having to go back and redo my calculations on paper so many times forgetting about this form and that form and the odd mistake.

    This software was a breeze, I got exactly back what it worked out to be. I was done in 2 hours after slogging through a couple hours the night before and a few hours the night after filling out a paper return, then I was almost done and realized I should have done income splitting and also forgot about another form I should have filled out.

    Excellent software.

  32. It’s nice to hear this package getting good reviews. I myself tried it but found the user interface to be somewhat lacking. Still, it’s free, and if it works, then of course use it!

    Another good program is SimpleTax. It’s an online tax tool, so you have to comfortable doing your taxes online, but it’s very well designed, simple and elegant. It’s a “pay what you can” programme, but it’s so good, I don’t mind paying a bit for it.
    https://simpletax.ca/

    For a full list of CRA Netfile-certified apps go to:
    http://bit.ly/CRA_tax_software

    With so many good, free software apps out there, I think the days of paying for tax software are numbered.

  33. Retired and have been using studio tax for two years, 2015 will be my third year. The program is easy to work with and the biggest kudos is it is safe.

  34. HOW DOES THE REFUND WORK? DOES GET DEPOSITED ON YOUR ACCOUNT DIRECTLY? BECAUSE I’VE HEARED THAT ON TURBO TAX, THEY HOLD YOUR REFUND FOR A PERIOD OF TIME AND IT IS SO DISAPPOINTING THAT THEY’LL PASS YOU AROUND TO GO FOR YOUR MONEY.

  35. This response is to the person who put down this product (you know who you are.) I am a qualified software engineer. First of all, to most programmers, the importance of good code far outweighs that of good grammar. They may also be working in a second or even third language. Can you do as well? Maybe you haven’t noticed but in this day of technology, grammar has gone the way of the dinosaurs. I feel bad about that but it is what it is.

  36. I filed my tax return using studio tax saved it and now I’m having problems opening the return to view.

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