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The 2016 Free Tax Software Roundup for Canadians

The 2016 Free Tax Software Roundup for Canadians

By Simon Hung

Spring may not begin until March, but tax season is already here and it’s easier than ever to file your income taxes with the help of tax software.

NETFILE -- Canada Revenue Agency’s electronic tax-filing system -- will begin accepting electronic transmissions starting February 20 and the deadline for most individuals to file their 2016 personal income taxes is May 1, 2017.

There are dozens of programs you can use to file your taxes and many are completely free! To help you decide which one is right for you, we’ve listed a few NETFILE-certified programs -- note that any pricing reflects the suggested retail price, but you can often find paid software for less at stores like Best Buy or Costco.

Free programs are exactly that -- free. There's no financial commitment, but some programs offer a "pay what you want" option and accept donations. All of these free programs will file your tax return with the Canada Revenue Agency, but some are basic iterations of software and offer more features with a paid upgrade.

Free Programs
Program
Platforms
Overview
Price
Web
Full program is free, promises a return in under five minutes, website design is dated
FREE!
Windows
Full program is free, comprehensive return options
FREE!1
Web, Windows
Returns for all tax scenarios are free, able to import past returns, extra features require paid upgrade
FREE!
Web
Full program is free, clean interface, maximum refund guarantee
FREE!1
Windows, Mac
Full program is free, step-by-step tutorials available
FREE!1
Web, Windows, Android, iOS
Basic returns are free, mobile apps available, extra features like deduction searching require paid upgrade
FREE!
1These programs accept "pay what you want" donations.

Free-to-start programs operate with a "try before your buy" strategy, where you're able to use the full program and fill out your return, but you'll have to pay a fee to actually file your return with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Free-to-Start Programs
Program
Platforms
Overview
Price
Web
Website is buggy, free to fill return, must pay to file with the CRA, cheapest paid option
From $5.99
Web, Android, iOS
Mobile apps available, free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
$9.99
Windows
Cluttered interface, free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
From $7.99
Windows, Mac, Linux
Linux support, free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
From $6.99
Web
Free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
From $9.98
Windows, Mac, iOS
iOS app available, free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA, step-by-step tutorials, confusing website
From $9.95
Windows
Comprehensive return options, free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
$12.99
Web, Windows, Android, iOS
Mobile apps available, more features than free version, free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
From $19.99
Web, Windows
Can import from other software, free to fill return, must pay to file with the CRA
From $17.95
Web
Free to try and fill return, must pay to file with the CRA, website design is dated
$12.99

Paid programs require an up-front payment before using the software, but these programs are usually very robust and offer more features to help maximize your refund. These programs are also generally well-known and have a history of providing reliable tax returns.

Paid Programs
Program
Platforms
Overview
Price
Web, Windows
Paid version includes features like multiple returns, auto-fill, curated tips and product support
From $14.99
Web, Windows, Android, iOS
Mobile apps available, available in most retail stores, includes features like multiple returns and deduction searching
From $14.99
Web, Windows
Paid version includes features like multiple returns, business returns and product support
From $21.99

Whichever program you decide to use, there are some general tips that you should keep in mind when filing your taxes.

  • Free programs offer a maximum of 20 returns per computer, as mandated by the CRA, since the software is meant for individual use only
  • Gather all necessary tax forms and receipts before filing your return to streamline the process. H&R Block has a useful checklist you can use for reference
  • Filing your return online is instantaneous, but it's a good idea to file early to avoid headaches and last-minute procrastination panic -- note that some individuals may also be subject to a late-filing penalty
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions in places like our personal finance forum or seek advice from a professional for more specific questions
  • You can file your taxes the old-fashioned way by downloading your province's tax package and sending your return to the CRA via mail

Taxes used to be a major headache, but many of these programs are easy-to-use and you won't even need to dust off your calculator to file your return! Be sure to let us know which program you'll be using this year and share any other tax tips you have!

18 Comments

    • any free small business option?
    • Report Post
    • I'm on disability with 2 kids and lots of deductibles and different thing because of that is it worth paying the $14.99 for Turbotax?
    • Report Post
    • Thanks for this. It actually helped and saved us some money.
    • Report Post
    • Go to your local postal outlet for the personal T1 income tax paper forms and guides plus envelopes. There's a new refundable tax credit on line 469 for teachers who buy eligible school supplies-the credit can be applied to taxes payable. It's 15% of up to $1000 worth of expenses (max $150 credit)-there are conditions attached of course.

      Not sure if CRA will mail out other return packages upon request. See the CRA website.
    • Report Post
    • SimpleTax has been amazing for me the past few years. Very easy to use, clean design. The team behind it is wonderful as well.
    • Report Post
    • Studio Tax has been working for me for the last 5 years. It's free / donations are accepted. You can do Rental Income, Small business, Self employment etc
    • Report Post
    • Another vote for SimpleTax! Great interface and very easy to use.
    • Report Post
    • A useful feature made available by CRA is the ability to download your T-slips from the CRA website to auto-fill your tax return. I don't know if all of the tax software mentioned have the auto-fill capability but it is something to consider to save time entering data and avoiding missing slips lost in the mail.

      UFile had technical problems with Auto-fill last year but hopefully that has been resolved in this year's program.
    • Report Post
    • Used studio tax for myself/wife/father/mother the last 5 or so years never had a single issue. Will use it again this year. I will never understand why anyone pays for tax software.
    • Report Post
    • lazybummer wrote:
      Feb 22nd, 2017 6:14 pm
      A useful feature made available by CRA is the ability to download your T-slips from the CRA website to auto-fill your tax return. I don't know if all of the tax software mentioned have the auto-fill capability but it is something to consider to save time entering data and avoiding missing slips lost in the mail.

      UFile had technical problems with Auto-fill last year but hopefully that has been resolved in this year's program.
      +1. Used it this year and worked like a charm in SimpleTax.
    • Report Post
    • evanwier wrote:
      Feb 22nd, 2017 6:26 pm
      Used studio tax for myself/wife/father/mother the last 5 or so years never had a single issue. Will use it again this year. I will never understand why anyone pays for tax software.
      It takes time, effort, knowledge and software dev. skills to build any software, let alone Tax software which can get very complex and intricate. I still pay for SimpleTax even though its free.
    • Report Post
    • Simpletax is awesome!
    • Report Post
    • Could anyone please answer this? I have just submitted it today using SimpleTax. First time user and first time doing on our own. Loved the interface and was wondering do we get the same amount of refund with every software? Thanks.
    • Report Post
    • Could anyone please answer this? I have just submitted it today using SimpleTax. First time user and first time doing on our own. Loved the interface and was wondering do we get the same amount of refund with every software? Thanks.
    • Report Post
    • Re: "Do we get the same amount of refund with every software?"
      With very simple returns -- a single source of income with nothing unusual, and no deductions, then they would likely all be the same. But start adding variables, and it's common to get different total amounts.
      The trick is: which one gives the best return? Several years ago, there was a website that actually tested different tax softwares with this very question. I haven't seen anyone do that in recent years, though. The only way to tell is to try several yourself. Sigh... that's a lot of work; but it can be the quickest way you'll ever make a couple of hundred dollars... or more.
    • Report Post
    • SimpleTax is perfect with autofilling!
    • Report Post
    • Use StudioTax for 4 years, doing OK.
    • Report Post
    • Studiotax. end of discussion.
    • Report Post