Tax Software Reviews: SimpleTax, H&R Block, TurboTax

Craig Sebastiano
by Craig Sebastiano April 7, 2017 / No Comments

Tax season is in full swing and if you haven’t had a chance to file your return yet, there a variety of software programs to choose from. Some are free while others will set you back a few bucks.

Three members of Ratehub.ca’s team used three different programs to do their taxes this year. I asked each of them to describe their experience:

Program: SimpleTax (online)
Cost: $0 (donations accepted)
Time to complete return: Less than 15 minutes

Cody Kukay, our head of product, used SimpleTax, an online software tax program made in Canada.

Q. What did you like the most about it?

A. It’s super simple to use—and even tells you if something seems off, or if it thinks you entered something in error. And it looks for ways to maximize your return.

Q. What did you like the least about it?

A. Sounds silly, but as a product designer, I don’t like the sign-in process for returning users. I find it cumbersome.

Q. Did you have many receipts and slips that needed to be entered? How many?

A. I didn’t have too many, but since I switched employers in 2016, I had two T4s and a few investment forms from my old pension to deal with.

Q. Do you have anything to add?

A. SimpleTax is a powerful yet approachable tool. Good for the beginner all the way to the small business owner.

Program: H&R Block Online Tax Software (web)
Cost: Free (Assistance version is $14.99; Protection version is $24.99)
Time to complete return: About an hour (including time to find to missing forms and look up information)

Our communications manager, Nicole Laoutaris, used the free version of H&R Block Online Tax Software.

Q. What did you like the most about it?

A. It’s really affordable. I have a fairly simplistic return so I don’t require a lot of support to complete filing. The layout is modern and easy to follow, you can click ahead or back to make sure you’ve entered in every field that pertains to you, and they have resources available on each field—indicated with a [?]—if you need more information.

Q. What did you like the least about it?

A. I felt unsure about some of the fields, and perhaps I missed a couple of claim opportunities because I chose the free version and didn’t have access to any support.

Q. Did you have many receipts and slips that needed to be entered? How many?

A. I had slips for my T4, a T5, and a form for the interest I paid on the remainder of my OSAP (yes, still).

Q. Do you have anything to add?

A. I’m going to have to file with my partner next year, so at that point I think I’m going to pay for a higher level version of this online service, or start working with a person so I can ask questions and take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to claim credits.

Program: TurboTax Standard (Windows and Mac)
Cost: $34.99 (for up to eight tax returns)
Time to complete return: 20 minutes

Associate editor Jane Switzer used TurboTax Standard, which both she, her brother, and her parents are using.

Q. What did you like the most about it?

A. It’s an easy program to use overall, and because I used it last year, it already had my personal information saved and ready to import. Since nothing changed from last year (address, marital status, etc.), it saved me a little bit of time not having to monotonously fill in things like my birth date and SIN.

Q. What did you like the least about it?

A. Honestly, I have no complaints. I’m not a math person or particularly good with numbers, but I found that as long as I worked slowly and carefully it was a fairly easy way to complete my tax return. It’s a clear step-by-step process, and you can always go back and amend your filing if you think you’ve made a mistake.

Q. Did you have many receipts and slips that needed to be entered? How many?

A. I had one freelance cheque to include as income. Since my personal information from last year was saved, I didn’t have to hunt through the program’s drop-down menus to find the correct industry code for freelance writing—I remember that being slightly annoying last year. The only other receipts I had to enter were my monthly public transit passes.

Q. Do you have anything to add?

A. My current tax situation is relatively uncomplicated, but my most stressful filing experiences were from the years where a good chunk of my income came from freelancing and I didn’t know what or how much I could claim in expenses. Now that having a second income or side hustle is the norm for many people (especially millennials), I think the key to a relatively painless filing is knowing what you’re eligible to claim and keeping your receipts and slips organized throughout the year. Depending on your knowledge and experience with filing taxes as a self-employed freelancer or small business owner, you may want to use an accountant.

For a full list the certified software you can use this year, visit the CRA website.

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