It’s the second most stressful time of the year after Valentine’s Day. It’s tax season in Canada and the deadline for filing most 2015 returns is only a month away, on Saturday, April 30, 2016.
Filing your taxes is easier than ever with a plethora of online resources and software at your disposal. Gone are the days of manual calculations and last-minute panic, as many tax programs can file basic returns for free, giving you piece of mind and the ability to do everything while wearing pyjamas in the comfort of your home.
We’ve listed the programs approved by the Canada Revenue Agency below. Each program is available for free and NETFILE-certified, meaning you can submit your return immediately to the CRA.
SimpleTax is a web-based software that promises an intuitive interface and simple process for filing your return. It’s one of the more popular options in RedFlagDeals Finance forum and the full software package is free, though there is a “pay what you want” option if you wish to support them with a donation.
TurboTax (Web, Windows, Mac, Mobile)
One of the more well-known tax programs, TurboTax offers free basic returns and is one of the few programs with a mobile app for iOS and Android. While basic filing is free, features such as automatic credit searching and importing previous returns are only available with paid versions, which start at $13.49.
H&R Block Tax Software (Web, Windows)
Known for their brick and mortar locations, H&R Block also offers free web-based or downloadable software options for filing your taxes. Unlike TurboTax, the H&R Block Tax Software does automatically search for applicable tax credits and you can even import previous returns from other programs. While basic returns are free, extra add-ons like audit protection are available for an additional fee.
StudioTax (Windows, Mac)
One of the first free tax programs in Canada, StudioTax has been filing taxes since 2005 and their free software is available for Windows or Mac. Unlike other free programs, StudioTax is one of the few that can also process Quebec provincial tax returns. Like SimpleTax, StudioTax runs on an optional donation platform.
GenuTax is a Windows-only software that offers a no-frills approach to your tax returns. While it won’t dazzle you with its user interface, it is comprehensive and completely free. Like SimpleTax and StudioTax, it accepts optional donations in lieu of payment.
You can find free tax packages at any Canada Post location or download them directly to fill out your taxes manually. Of course, this method will take the longest and isn’t 100% free, since you’ll have to pay for postage, but if you’re Ned Flanders or enjoy a challenge, this method is an option (though not recommended).
There are other NETFILE-certified programs approved by the CRA, including UFile, TaxTron, VirtualTax and others. These programs are listed as “free with restrictions” on the CRA website, as many of these programs only offer to prepare your tax return for free and will typically require a fee to actually file your return.
While all of the programs we listed are free and meant to be simple to use, note that some only offer basic returns and do not offer more advanced tax returns (such as returns for contract workers or businesses) without a paid version. Everyone’s taxes are different, so be sure to read reviews, along with the software features and FAQ to ensure that it’s ideal for you before committing to one.
- Limited uses — Free programs offer a maximum of 20 returns per computer, as mandated by the CRA, since the software is meant for individual use only
- Be prepared — Gather all of your tax forms (T4, T2125 for contract workers, T2202A for students, etc.) and calculate any potential credits (rent, transit passes, RRSP contributions, business expenses, etc.) before filing your return to streamline the process. Most software is capable of saving your progress, but like ripping off a bandage, many find it easier to finish your taxes in one pass
- Don’t procrastinate — While there’s no need to fear the deadline when filing your return online as the process is instantaneous, it’s not a good idea to procrastinate. However, if you do plan to wait until the deadline, be prepared with your financial information and remember that you’ll have less time to have questions answered
- Ask questions — Taxes can cause a larger headache than Jaden Smith’s Twitter timeline, but don’t be afraid to ask general questions in places like RedFlagDeals personal finance forum or seek advice from a professional for more confidential or specific questions
What’s your favourite program to file your taxes? Have you filed yours already or are you holding off until the deadline? Let us know and happy taxing!