The Best Tax Software in Canada

Tax Software

The Best Tax Software in Canada

It’s that time again. Your T4s have arrived, the bank sent you tax documents you didn’t know were coming, you’ve made your RRSP contributions (if only just a little), and now it’s time to do your taxes.

There are lots of different ways to get your taxes done. You can head to the post office and pick up the paper forms to do them by hand. You can gather all your stuff and head over to a tax preparation service. And for the best of both worlds, there are lots of different software choices you can use to help you DIY your taxes.

But if there are a dozen different tax preparation apps, which one is the best? Which one should you use? Will one of them help you maximize your refund while the others leave money on the table? And how do you know you can trust them?

All your questions will be answered in this overview of the best tax software in Canada.

Table of Contents

What is tax filing software and how does it work?

If only personal income tax were straightforward, this would be a lot easier. Instead, over the years, tax rates change; programs are introduced, used, and cancelled; different things are taxed different ways; and it all adds up to a thick stack of forms you need to fill out.

Tax filing software makes the whole process easier, faster and more accurate by helping you quickly grab the forms you need, automating some or all of the process of filling them out, and doing the math for you so you don’t end up with any expensive arithmetic errors. Some software can even automatically retrieve forms that have been submitted electronically to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) so you don’t even have to transcribe the information.

Many software choices can also optimize your tax return to look for efficiencies, and help you do your entire family’s taxes at the same time. Once you’re happy with your return, tax preparation software can also help you submit your taxes using the CRA’s Netfile service.

In Canada, tax software is regulated and certified by the CRA. You can find a complete list of approved software at the CRA Website.

Should I use tax filing software or a tax preparation service?

The choice between a service and software is a trade off between convenience, comfort level, and cost.

Many tax preparation software choices are offered for free. However, you will need to be comfortable with downloading and installing the software and navigating the process. The software will prompt you for certain forms, but you will need to make sure you feed it all the information it needs – and the CRA will not be forgiving if you miss something because you weren’t comfortable with the software.

Tax services are done for a fee – one of Canada’s most popular services charges $79.99 for a single basic return. For this fee, you receive convenience. The service will ask you for all the information they need and handle everything from there.

What is the best tax filing software tax filing software in Canada?

There are 34 tax software options certified by the CRA for the 2020 tax year. The right one for you depends on the features you need, your comfort with technology, and the price you’re willing to pay.

Best free tax software in Canada: TurboTax Free

For Canadians whose taxes aren’t too complex, TurboTax Free is a great choice. The service works on any computer or mobile device, and there are no hidden fees or costs. TurboTax Free can automatically import your tax information from the CRA, and they guarantee you’ll receive the maximum refund.

What TurboTax Free doesn’t do is bring forward your tax information from previous years, so you’ll need to go hunting for your notice of assessment (NOA). There are no limitations beyond that, but if you want any help or guidance, you will need to upgrade to one of TurboTax’s paid options that start at $19.99 per return.

  • Cost: Free
  • Platform: Online (Windows or Mac)
  • Tablet-friendly: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Best for: Canadians with straightforward tax returns.

Best for support, advice & a second opinion H&R Block

The biggest name in tax preparation services for Canadians also offers a free online service you can use to do your own taxes. H&R Block can auto-fill your return with documents from the CRA, walk you through the process step-by-step and lets you search for the forms you need.

If you need support, H&R Block has an online help centre you can browse, and they will be happy to upgrade you to their $19.99 “Assistance” plan that entitles you to tech support by phone. An extra $10 gives you unlimited priority support so that you can get quick answers as much as you need.

Over and above this, you can get help from a tax expert while you file, or have your taxes reviewed by an expert for an additional fee that starts at $29.99.

  • Cost: Free; Support starting at $19.99
  • Platform: Online (Windows or Mac)
  • Tablet-friendly: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes

Best free option with support included: Wealthsimple Tax

SimpleTax was recently bought by the fast-growing investment giant Wealthsimple, who bravely renamed the product Wealthsimple Tax.

Like other free, online tax services, Wealthsimple Tax lets you automatically fill your return with information provided by the CRA, walks you through the process step-by-step, optimize your return, and file online.

Unlike other free, online tax services, Wealthsimple Tax offers support without requiring you to upgrade to a free plan. Instead, they use a “pay what you want” model and give you the option to pay for the service if you want to.

  • Cost: Free
  • Platform: Online (Windows or Mac)
  • Tablet-friendly: Yes
  • Mobile app: Yes
  • Best for: Canadians with straightforward tax returns who want access to basic support.

Best for Privacy: UFile Windows

One of the biggest concerns with all the free tax preparation software options is how and where your data is being saved. Even companies that don’t use or sell your information could be the target of hackers who want to steal your tax data.

With that in mind, you might prefer a software option that keeps your tax information closer within your control. UFile Windows is a fully featured option that saves all your data on your local computer. However, support is limited to email only, so you’ll need to be comfortable navigating the entire process with little or no help.

  • Cost: $22.99 for up to 4 returns
  • Platform: Windows
  • Tablet-friendly: No
  • Mobile app: No
  • Best for: Canadians who don’t want their tax information stored in the cloud by private companies.

Best for business owners & investors: UFile Online

If you have investments, rental properties, or self-employment income, most tax software will try to get you to pay for a more expensive version of their software, although they don’t do a very good job of explaining why. That’s because the main reason they “recommend” a premium offering for these tax situations is because of the level of support that’s included, not the software’s ability to fill the appropriate forms.

While a free option will do, you might prefer to use a premium service if your taxes are a bit more complex. UFile Online offers only one package, covering all tax scenarios and offering support by phone and email. Rather than trying to upsell you on the premise that your taxes require something special that others’ don’t, UFile Online charges everybody $19.95 for the first return so you can be confident that you’re getting what you pay for.

  • Cost: $19.95 + up to $12.95 per additional return
  • Platform: Online
  • Tablet-friendly: Yes
  • Mobile app: No
  • Best for: Canadians who want a premium tax service without being upsold

Final Thoughts

There are many different tax software options out there for Canadians but they all do the same basic thing – help you fill in the appropriate CRA forms and submit them using Netfile. The key differences are the level of support offered, quality of the interface, and the price.

If you’re comfortable navigating the process yourself, any of the free options will do. If you want a premium service that will handle everything you throw at it, UFile Online offers the best value for your money.

Whatever software you choose, have fun doing your taxes this year and accept my best wishes for a big fat refund.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you own a small business and are a sole proprietor, your business taxes will be intertwined with your personal income taxes. If you’re incorporated, you might have capital gains or dividends to claim. For that reason, you might want to choose a premium software option with built-in support so you can be sure you’re doing it right. UFile Online is the best value out of all the paid options and can easily support your need as a small business owner.

For most self-employed people, the process of filing taxes is very similar to that of those who are employed. The key difference is that you may be able to deduct your self-employment expenses.

If your self-employment is fairly straightforward, any free tax option, such as TurboTax Free, will do. If your situation is more complex, UFile Online offers the best support for a lower price than other options, including some specifically labelled “self-employed.”

For instance, pet insurance in Ontario will come at a different rate than in Alberta or any other province or territory.

Reimbursements may appear to differ from one province to the next, but claims respectively honored, regardless of the province.

Hello retired person, I’m very jealous of you!

In retirement, you still have to file taxes when you receive income from CPP, QPP, your RRSP, and your other investments. If you don’t mind the stereotype that you just want software that works well and is straightforward, I suggest retirees use H&R Block. They offer a package with unlimited support, so you can call and ask as many questions as you want. And you can take advantage of their expert review service to double check your work. And if you throw your hands up in the air and say, “I don’t want to do this,” you can easily switch to having an expert do your taxes for you.