In 2015, 82% of Canadians filed their tax returns electronically. So if you’re ready to join the ranks of DIYers and start using online tax software for the first time, we’ve got you covered with today’s review of the top five online tax software programs in Canada.
How to Choose the Best Tax Software
Before we dive into the particulars of each online tax return software, let’s talk about what to look for when choosing the best tax return software in Canada. There are five important components to consider: CRA Certification, cost, security, features, and add-ons.
The first and most important feature of any tax return software is that it is NETFILE certified by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). NETFILE certified software allows you to submit your income tax return directly from the tax return software website. There are currently 11 online products and 13 desktop products certified by the CRA in Canada.
If your tax software is not CRA certified, you’ll have to print out your tax forms and physically mail them in, which will significantly delay the time between filing and receiving your refund.
Some online tax return software is completely free, while others offer pricing tiers. These tiers usually include a free version for students and low-income earners, a mid-range version for simple returns, and a more expensive version for Canadians who need additional functionality (e.g. small business owners).
While the basic three tiers exist for most of the programs we’re going to review, the range of cost will vary considerably.
Online tax return software handles sensitive personal information like your social insurance number, so it’s important to make sure their security is up to snuff. You’ll need to do your research on this topic, since the CRA doesn’t verify the security of the websites it certifies.
If you aren’t sure, choose a familiar brand name.
While all online tax return software will allow you to file your income tax return online, some have additional features that streamline the filing process. Some of these features, like auto-importing information from the CRA, reduce the time it takes to file your taxes. Other features make filing your taxes more straightforward in the future, such as offering an express notice of assessment and storing your returns for future use.
Some online tax return software sell extra add-ons like having your return reviewed by a real-life tax professional, audit protection, and last will and testament planning. These add-ons come at an additional cost, and you can choose them at the end of the tax filing process.
Now that we’ve outlined the factors to consider when choosing the best tax return software in Canada, here five of the most popular choices:
Best Tax Return Software in Canada
Editor’s Choice: TurboTax
- CRA Certified: Yes
- Cost: $0.00 – $99.99
- Encryption: Yes – TLS
- Features: Auto-fill return, Express Notice of Assessment, importing information from previous tax returns
- Add-ons: Assist & Review, Full Service, audit protection
TurboTax is online tax software from Intuit and is a big player in the tax return game. It offers free simple tax returns and several tiers of paid returns, ranging from low-cost standard returns ($19.99) to $44.99 for self-employed returns.
TurboTax’s built-in features and intuitive platform make filing a cinch. Just answer an online questionnaire and TurboTax does the work of figuring out which of the more than 400 deductions and credits you may be eligible for. That means you won’t miss out on any potential tax-savings opportunities! It will auto-fill your return with information from the CRA, import information from previous tax returns if you’ve filed online before, and issue an express notice of assessment.
If you’re a “noob” to tax-filing, you can also upgrade to Assist & Review ($69.99), which gives you unlimited access to an “on-call” tax expert who will help you fill out your return and do a final line-by-line review before you file. Or if you don’t want to lift a finger, opt for TurboTax Full Service. A tax expert with an average of 10 years of experience will collect all your documentation and prepare your income tax return.
Overall, the flexibility, ease-of-use, fantastic features, and affordable pricing of TurboTax makes it a winner in our books. Read our TurboTax review for all the info.
- CRA Certified: Yes
- Cost: $0 – $29.99
- Encryption: Yes, TLS
- Features: Automatic return optimization, personalized guidance, online help centre, Auto-Fill My Return, Smart Switch, SmartReview, unlimited priority support, transfer last year’s data
- Add-Ons: Audit protection, Expert Review, last will and testament
H&R Block is a relatively new entry to the online tax return software field, but it’s been the face of income tax filing for decades. The H&R Block online tax software has all of the standard features you expect, including auto-filling your return, past return importing and express notice of assessment.
The pricing is also excellent, allowing you to choose from three tiers. There’s a basic free option for simple returns, and an “Assistance” tier at $19.99 for those who want customized tax tips and some hand-holding through the process. The most expensive tier is still affordable at $29.99, and offers unlimited priority support, digital storage, and audit protection. H&R Block guarantees they’ll find you the biggest return, and if you find another online tax return software that results in a larger refund, they’ll reimburse you for the purchase price of the other software.
H&R Block hasn’t left behind the brick and mortar version of their tax filing strategy. If you opt for Expert Review, you can have a tax expert review your return before you file to further improve your refund or decrease what you owe.
- CRA Certified: Yes
- Cost: $0
- Encryption: Yes
- Features: Smart search, auto-fill return, refund optimizer, express notice of assessment, refile
- Add-Ons: No
SimpleTax is a 100% free tax return software that is packed with features delivered through a simple, user-friendly interface. Of the free versions of software reviewed today, SimpleTax offers the most features for $0, including auto-filling your return, express notice of assessment, and refiling, which lets you make adjustments to your return after you file. SimpleTax also has a smart search and tutorial mode, which helps you determine which forms apply to your tax situation.
If you have a straightforward return and are looking for a free online tax software with plenty of features but no upsells, SimpleTax is an excellent choice.
What’s also great is SimpleTax is a “pay what you want” tax software. That means that if you’ve been affected financially by COVID-19, you can still file your taxes free of charge to get access to your refund sooner.
Each online tax software service has strengths and weaknesses, so the best tax return software in Canada really depends on your personal preferences. The only way to determine which software works best for you is to try them out for yourself! But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the tried, tested, and true online softwares, such as TurboTax or H&R Block, might be your best bet.
Finally, as you’re sifting through receipts and tallying up expenses this tax season, don’t forget to check out our Guide to Tax Season in Canada 2020! Just a few minutes of reading could save you some serious dough.