With tax season just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about getting organized and filing your income tax return. I’ve filed my income tax return online since I was a student in my early 20s, and every year I’m asked by family and friends about which income tax software to use. For me, the answer is easy: TurboTax. I’ve used TurboTax almost every year, and I couldn’t be happier.
The Version of TurboTax That I Use (And Why)
I currently use the TurboTax Self Employed online software, but in the many years that I’ve used this software, I’ve tried out various versions including Free and Standard. Even as my financial life has changed and gotten more complicated, I’ve stuck with TurboTax because it’s got features that make filing my taxes easy:
- You can track your refund in real-time while you add in things like T4s and RRSP contributions
- The variety of software options means you only pay for the features you need
- Filing returns for your whole household in one session are easy
- The deduction section is updated every year and checks for over 400 deductions using a series of straight-forward questions
- Your TurboTax account saves information from the previous year, like Home Buyer’s Plan contributions
- TurboTax can import your information from your CRA My Account, so no more tracking down T4s or government benefit statements
- TurboTax offers the chance to have your return reviewed by a tax expert, so if you aren’t sure about something, you can get it double-checked
- It’s affordable: a tax professional can cost upwards of several hundred dollars
- It’s safe: You can file your income tax return with TurboTax including and have it reviewed by a tax professional totally online, eliminating the safety risk of visiting a local branch
- TurboTax makes it really easy to claim COVID-19 relief (including CERB, CRB, CESB, etc) and also to take advantage of the new $400 work from home credit
While I used another major income tax software provider in the past, the experience was less than stellar and resulted in me narrowly avoiding committing tax fraud after misreading the online filing instructions. This year I’m happy to return to TurboTax. For years, I used TurboTax Standard, which is the online version that works for students, individuals, and families. This edition regularly costs $19.99 (but by using our special promo, you can save 15% on the regular price), and adding my husband for another $19.99 once we got married was extremely easy. Now we file together with minimal fuss.
About four years ago, my needs changed because I started freelancing and bringing in extra income on top of my full-time job. At this point, I became a sole proprietor and the added income and expenses meant that I upgraded to the Self-Employed edition. It meets my needs perfectly, and I’ve used that edition for the past several years to file my income tax return – including my business income and expenses, along with my husband’s income taxes. The Self-Employed edition is a little more expensive at $44.99 plus $19.99 for an extra return, but it is much less expensive than paying a tax professional.
The bottom line? With its affordability, ease of use, and fantastic features, you can’t go wrong with using TurboTax to file your Canadian taxes. If you want all the details, check out our full TurboTax review.
TurboTax Online Versions Explained
TurboTax currently offers four different editions of their online tax software: Free, Standard, Premier, and Self-Employed.
Most DIY tax software programs have a free version for students and low-income tax filers, and TurboTax is no different. The TurboTax Canada Free version costs $0 to use and is good for Canadians with simple, straight forward income tax returns. It handles pretty much every Canadian tax situation, but without the step by step guidance and support included in the paid versions.
TurboTax Standard (Most Popular)
TurboTax Standard works for most situations including students with tuition tax credits, families claiming child care expenses, and seniors. This software regularly costs $19.99 per return and lets you claim your T4 income, pre-qualifies you for over 400 deductions, optimizes your RRSP, and gives you the option to connect with a tax expert to review your return if you are unsure.
If you have investment or rental property income and expenses, TurboTax Premier is the best option for you. TurboTax Premier regularly costs $34.99 plus $19.99 for an extra return. This version has all of the same features as TurboTax Standard but also lets you claim mortgage interest, maintenance costs, and insurance fees associated with rental property income.
TurboTax Self-Employed regularly costs the most at $44.99 (discounted to $38.25 with our promo code) plus $19.99 for an additional return and is essential for anyone who freelances or side hustles as a sole proprietor or in a partnership. With TurboTax Self-Employed you can claim expenses related to your business, from home office expenses to vehicle mileage, right down to food and snacks. The business section of TurboTax Self-Employed compliments the personal side, and it’s easy to file everything in a single sitting.
TurboTax Online vs Desktop Versions
TurboTax offers its tax filing software in both online, mobile, and desktop editions. What’s the difference? We break it down:
TurboTax Online (Great for Mac Users)
Rather than install a program on your home computer, you login online to access the software. It requires a secure sign-in, uses data encryption, and is accessible through your web browser. When you use one of the online editions listed above, you’ll pay once for a single return, and then an extra fee to add a return, which is ideal for two-income families, where you are only filing a maximum of two income tax returns. You might choose an online edition if you’re filing a single return plus a spouse’s return because the fee to add additional returns is low. TurboTax Online is available in 4 editions: Free, Standard, Premier, and Self-Employed.
- What is it: Browser-based software for PC, Mac, or tablet
- Cost: $0 to $199.99
- Why use it: Log into your account from anywhere, on PC or Mac
- Other perks/features: Optional Review & Assist and Full Service income tax return filing
TurboTax Desktop Editions
Broken into the same basic categories as the online editions, but have different names:
- TurboTax Basic
- TurboTax Standard
- TurboTax Premier
- TurboTax Home & Business (Online version: TurboTax Self-Employed)
- Additionally, TurboTax has a desktop version that handles incorporated business returns
The downloadable desktop versions of TurboTax are only available on PC and are more expensive than their online counterparts (due to being able to file multiple returns). For example, the TurboTax Online Self-Employed program regularly costs $44.99, plus $19.99 per addition return. The TurboTax small business desktop version of this software is called Home & Business, and regularly costs $119.99, but includes 12 returns, which may be overkill in your situation. The desktop version is better for anyone filing multiple returns because it comes with many licenses as the standard option. For example, a family with several teenagers who all work part-time jobs would really benefit from the desktop version.
- What is it: Downloadable program for PC users
- Cost: $0 to $119.99
- Who’s it best for: Anyone filing more than two returns; incorporated businesses
- Why use it: Can be used offline, can be used to file multiple returns
- Other perks/features: All the same features as the online version
Other TurboTax Editions
The TurboTax mobile app is available on iOS and Android devices and lets you file your taxes from your smartphone or tablet. Choose one of the online editions listed above and file your taxes quickly and easily on the go. If you don’t have all of your tax information on hand, you can start filing your taxes via mobile and switch to the online version later, or vice versa, for maximum convenience.
TurboTax Assist & Review
TurboTax Assist & Review is a feature available when you purchase the TurboTax online editions. TurboTax Assist & Review gives you virtual access to a TurboTax Expert on-demand while filling out your income tax return, and also gives you the opportunity to have an expert review your income tax return via video chat before you submit the final product. The service regularly costs $79.99 for Free, Standard, and Premier users, and $99.99 for Self-Employed users.
TurboTax Full Service
TurboTax also offers a Full-Service product, which has a tax professional file your taxes for you virtually. The cost for this service is regularly $129.99 for personal returns and $199.99 for self-employed returns.
Turbo Tax Edition Best For Free Simple returns or users who are confident preparing their taxes with minimal guidance Standard Returns with T4 income, RRSP contributions, tuition tax credits, Home Buyer’s Plan participants, etc. Premier Returns with income and expenses from rental properties and investments Self-Employed Returns with business income and expenses
As we’ve discussed at length in our TurboTax Canada review, TurboTax’s online tax return software is an excellent tool for anyone who wants to DIY their taxes. Whether you’ve got a straightforward tax return or a complicated one involving business income and expenses, TurboTax has a version of the software that will suit your needs at an affordable price. 2020 might be a complicated year for you, tax-wise, but with TurboTax’s COVID-19 information centre and Review & Assist tools, you’ll have an expert available to review your taxes and put your mind at ease.