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.
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:
CRA Certified: Yes
Cost: $0.00 – $59.99
Encryption: Yes – TLS
Features: Auto-fill return, express notice of assessment, importing information from previous tax returns
Add-ons: Expert review, audit protection
TurboTax is online tax software from Intuit and is a big player in the tax return field. This tax return software offers free tax returns for students and several tiers of paid returns ranging from moderately priced straightforward returns to $59.99 for self-employed individuals. TurboTax uses TLS encryption, a commonly used security encryption in North America.
TurboTax has all of the bells and whistles you’d expect of high-end online tax return software. You can expect it to 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. You can also opt to have your return reviewed by a professional and protect yourself with their audit protection package.
CRA Certified: Yes
Features: Smart search, auto-fill return, refund optimizer, express notice of assessment, refile
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.
CRA Certified: Yes
Encryption: No – native program, not online
If you’re looking for free tax return software that won’t up-sell you, StudioTax is for you. StudioTax is 100% free to use. There are no tiered services, so whether you have a complicated or simple online tax software, the fee is the same: zero.
This bare-bones software is downloadable, so you don’t have to worry about storing your sensitive information on a third-party server. Instead, it lives only on your computer. Since this is a free program, there aren’t many features or add-ons offered, although you can import previous tax years information if you have used StudioTax before.
CRA Certified: Yes
Cost: $9.99 – $24.99
Encryption: Yes, TLS
Features: Auto-fill return, past return import, express notice of assessment, year over year return comparison, maximum refund guarantee
Add-ons: Expert review, audit protection, last will and testament
is a relatively new entry to the online tax return software game, although they’ve been the traditional face of brick and mortar income tax return filing for decades. The H&R Block software has all of the standard features you expect in an online tax return software including auto-filling your return, past return importing and express notice of assessment.
H&R Block does have a free software option for students regardless of income, and their most expensive tiered software for entrepreneurs is still affordable at just $24.99. 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: for a fee you can have a tax professional review your return, and they also offer discounted last will and testament preparation in partnership with legalwills.ca.
CRA Certified: Yes
Cost: $0 – $19.99
Encryption: Yes, bank level
Features: Auto-fill return, past return imports, auto pension splitting, refile
If the premium versions of online tax software are too high-pressure for you, but you’d like a little more polish and functionality than the free tax software we’ve discussed, UFile is an excellent middle ground. UFile offers free tax returns for students, low-income individuals, and first-time filers. The maximum fee for UFile is $19.99 per person, making this an economical option even if you don’t qualify for the free tier. UFile is secure, using bank-level encryption, and offers the features you expect from online software including auto-filling your return, importing past returns (even from other software) and automatic pension splitting.
UFile does not up-sell their customers with add-ons like some other online tax software, so if you don’t want to take advantage of add-ons like audit protection or professional reviews, UFile is a good option.
The Bottom Line
Each of the programs reviewed today have their 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 may 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 2019! Just a few minutes of reading could save you some serious dough.