Filing your own taxes can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to. Today there is a variety of free tax return software to choose from, and it’s never been less intimidating or easier to file taxes independently.
The biggest benefit of using tax return software and filing the DIY way as opposed to paying a tax consultant is savings. By filing your own taxes, the savings will add up year over year. But sometimes this can be a case of penny wise, pound foolish. Generally, filing your own taxes only makes sense if your tax return is relatively straightforward. If it’s complicated, you may be better off hiring a tax consultant. Although many of the free programs can handle rental income and self-employment, if you’re not familiar with the tax systems, you may be overlooking tax credits and deductions you’re entitled to, negating any money you saved by filing your taxes yourself.
TurboTax has incorporated the NETFILE rules from the CRA. You no longer need your personalized four-digit code to take advantage of this service. It makes things a lot easier, especially when you file with a third-party provider like TurboTax.
Another bonus with TurboTax’s NETFILE capability is that now you can file with a single click. There is no need to leave the program and go to the CRA website to finish the process, and you don’t need to mess with extra files. This simplifies the whole process, and results in an even faster and more convenient tax return.
SimpleTax is one of the newer income tax filing programs out there, and it seems to combine the best features from other tax return software to make a well-rounded program. SimpleTax offers a web-based version, can be used on a local Windows or Mac desktop, and on mobile via iOS devices only. It features a unique pay-what-you-want structure: it’s technically free, although you might opt to donate something to help support the creators.
Despite its name, SimpleTax can handle more complicated tax scenarios including self-employment and investment income. It even supports Quebec tax returns and includes a full translation to French, something not very common in free income tax software. It has one of the best user interfaces out there, cleaner and more user friendly than that of, say, StudioTax. Similar to StudioTax, you can NETFILE the maximum allowed 20 tax returns for free. Data you submit is protected, as everything is transmitted using encryption.
3. H&R Block
H&R Block allows you to file your income tax return for free, even if you’re self-employed or have investment income, from Feb. 1 – April 30 during tax filing season. The offer is available to Quebecers as well.
Taxes can be filed online with NETFILE using a Windows or Mac computer, or Android and iOS mobile operating systems. If your tax situation is more complicated, there are several add-ons you can purchase, including audit protection and pro review.
H&R Block’s interface is well conceived. The opening screen is organized into four logical tabs: home, prepare, wrap-up and file. On each screen you’re only asked a few questions at a time to help you move through the software at a manageable pace. The status report in the top corner of the screen helps you monitor where you’re at monetarily in terms of a tax refund or balance owing.
UFileFREE has a web-based
In order to file your taxes for free with UFileFREE, you must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- You’re filing your tax return for the first time
- Your total family income is under $20,000
- You’re a post-secondary student
- You’re a dependent
- You’re in receipt of Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Your only income is from T4 tax slips.
If you don’t qualify under at least one of the above, you can use a more robust version of the program, but you’ll have to pony up the cash for it.