It’s a fact: Doing your taxes is no fun at all. But it doesn’t have to be as stressful, time-consuming, and expensive as many people tend to think. In fact, there’s lots of free tax filing software and online services available to all Canadians, even if you’re new to the country or filing your taxes for the very first time.
The big benefit of using tax filing software and online services is they simplify the process from start to finish. Each one typically begins with a questionnaire. You answer some questions and provide some personal data. The software then prepares the rest of your forms. From there, all you need to do is fill information in, step-by-step. Usually, this means copying numbers from your T4 into the software.
Another big benefit of using free tax filing software is electronic filing. Once you’ve completed all of your forms, the software will walk you through how to file your completed taxes directly to the CRA’s online NETFILE system. NETFILE is a secure and confidential service that lets you submit your income tax directly to the CRA online. The CRA suggests those who file electronically have their taxes (and refunds) processed far faster than those who submit by traditional mail.
Which Free Tax Filing Software Should I Choose?
If you Google free tax filing software for Canada, you’ll quickly be overwhelmed with choice. Which one is the best? Which one should you choose? It can be hard to tell what the top options are, and many online tax filing services that claim to be free actually have some hidden fees.
To help you find free tax filing software that works for you, we took a look at some of the most popular options.
TurboTax is one of the most well-known options available. It can also be one of the pricier services, but it does have a free option available to all Canadians. With the free version, you lose some of the unique bells and whistles TurboTax offers, such as identifying tax-saving opportunities, audit support, and guidance on investment income.
The other downside to the free version is a lack of direct support. If you have a question or run into any issues, your only option is an online message board. If you want to talk to TurboTax support over the phone, you’ll have to upgrade to one of the paid options.
Nevertheless, Turbo Tax’s free tax filing service is fast, simple, and lets you file directly to the CRA via NETFILE. It also has a handy auto-fill feature, which can pull your past tax data from the CRA and auto-populate some of your returns for you. This saves a lot of time and helps ensure accuracy.
Unlike some of the other options on this list, SimpleTax uses a “pay what you want” model. And yes, that means you can pay $0 if that’s all you can afford.
True to its name, SimpleTax is incredibly simple. Your entire return is shown on a single, easy-to-understand page. This is in stark contrast to other services, which split your return across lots and lots of pages, which can get confusing fast.
It also offers two different ways to complete your tax return. If you know what you’re doing, you can use the streamlined interface, in which you use a Smart Search feature to find the forms and fields you need. Or, if you need a more guided approach, you can opt for the traditional question and answer method.
Like Turbo Tax Free, there’s no phone support available with SimpleTax, but there is an email support feature.
UFile is another well-known tax filing service that offers a free option for eligible Canadians. To qualify, you need to be a post-secondary student, filing for the first time, filing a simple tax return, or have a total family income under $20,000.
UFile says a simple tax return is if you’re only reporting employment income (from a T4) or from a Canadian Government pension, are only entitled to standard non-refundable tax credits, and have no other deductions.
One of the best things about UFile is if you opt for any of the add-ons, such as audit protection, the most you’ll pay is $19.99. This makes it one of the most affordable options available that offers a robust slate of features.
Like TurboTax Free and SimpleTax, there’s no phone support available for UFile, but there is an online support form plus a Virtual Agent available to help.
Like SimpleTax, GenuTax is also entirely free and encourages a “pay what you can” donation model. Unlike the previous options we’ve already discussed, GenuTax is actual software you need to download and install on your computer, so you can’t use this on a tablet or smartphone. There’s another catch as well, the software is only compatible with Windows, so you won’t be able to download and install this if you have a Mac.
What really sets GenuTax apart from other free options is it allows you to prepare and file up to 20 tax returns at a time, for both the current year and previous years all the way back to 2008. Most other services only allow you to file a handful of tax returns, and only back a few years.
Prefer Some In-Person Help? Visit a Free Tax Clinic Near You
As simple and straightforward as they are, free tax filing websites and software can still be a little overwhelming. Plus, they’re only intended for simple tax returns. If you have a unique situation and would prefer to get some expert advice in-person, you might be eligible to get help at a free tax clinic.
Free tax clinics are staffed by volunteers and can be found across the country. The majority are offered in March and April, but some are available throughout the year. Some are by appointment only, while others are open to walk-ins.
To be eligible, you must have a modest income (based on total family income) and a simple tax situation. To find out if you’re eligible, click here.
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