Every year, Canadians prepare their tax returns for the CRA. With a week to go before the tax deadline, you might be looking for the right tax software to get you through it.
A number of readers might normally complete their taxes with full versions of TurboTax or Ufile. Both of these are great programs with plenty of features that can help you prepare and file your taxes with ease, but they can cost money. We all like to save money if we can, and the cost might not even be even feasible for those with low incomes.
Before you pay for your tax software this year, take a look at some of the free options out there. In the past, free tax software may not have had all the bells and whistles of the bigger titles, but things are changing. There are plenty of free tax software alternatives with great functionality that offer you the ability to take care of most situations — including self-employment and investing/rental income.
You can find some truly free options, as well as free, but limited, versions of major tax software. While there are some tax situations that are more complicated and might require something beyond a free option, you'll find that many of these free alternatives work really well — and won't cost you a dime:
One of the newer players in the tax software space, SimpleTax offers a clean, user friendly interface, and full functionality. Since it's web-based, it's possible to use SimpleTax with just about any operating system, including Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can also use SimpleTax on your iPad. You can include self-employed income, report investments, and perform most other tax functions. SimpleTax now supports Quebec provincial returns, including a full french translation, so you can prepare your federal and provincial returns no matter where you live in Canada. SimpleTax has a pay what you want model, which means it is completely free if you decide not to pay. (full review)
StudioTax has been around for more than a decade. It's a simple, no frills way to prepare your taxes with relative ease. You can get StudioTax for Window or Mac, although the Mac version won't allow you to prepare a Quebec provincial return. StudioTax has the ability to allow you to file returns that include investment income, rental income, and self-employed income. The interface isn't particularly pretty, but it works well and is truly free. (full review)
While you can get full functionality by buying the UFile software, there is a free version for Canadians. UFileFREE offers a limited return for those who meet certain qualifications, such as if you are filing a Federal return for the first time, or if your total family income is under $20,000. This option isn't for those with more complicated taxes, but it can be a good choice for those who qualify.
TurboTax has recently made its tax software free for Canadian filers, no matter the tax situation, and with no income limit. Additionally, Turbotax works with a variety of devices and operating systems. However, there are some limits associated with this software, even when you file with NETFILE. Quebec is an excluded province, and you can't use Form T1273 (AgriStability) or Form T1135 (Foreign Income). Plus, you can't transfer last year's information unless you use a paid version. For the most part, as your situation becomes more complex, you might be required to buy an upgraded version of TurboTax to finish your return, even though you can start for free.
H&R Block is offering its tax software for free to Canadians, including for those who are self-employed or have investment income. You can use NETFILE to take care of the filing, and the software works with Mac, Windows, tablets, and smartphones. You can file your Quebec provincial return with H&R Block as well. However, there are some add-ons that cost money, such as a Pro Review and Audit Protection.
Another simple tax return program is AdvTax. Languages supported include French and Chinese, in addition to English. You can find broad support for most forms, including for single person, family, and self-employed returns. AdvTax supports Quebec tax returns, which makes it a nice free tax software choice for residents of that province. This option is truly free, and it involves you downloading the tax and PDF files and then uploading to the CRA NETFILE.
GenuTax uses an easy to understand interview process to take you through filling out your tax forms so that you can get the refund that you are entitled to. You can file information for tax years 2003 through 2013, in addition to the current tax year. This software updates regularly, but the 2015 tax year information won't be ready until February 15, 2016. This is different from some free software, like SimpleTax, that will allow you to start in on the most recent forms now so that you are ready to file later. Most tax situations are covered, although GenuTax doesn't support Quebec provincial returns.
Finally, there is EachTax. You can use this tax software to file a return that will meet most of your needs. However, it is only free to those who are new customers, new immigrants, seniors (70+), or have an income of less than $25,000. The price for filing a return is fairly low, though, with $5.99 for the first return and $3.99 for each additional return. And, as with many free programs, Quebec is an excluded province.
Carefully consider what works best for you. While free software works in most situations, you might still be better off buying more advanced software or going in and speaking with a professional.