SimpleTax Review: Is This Canada’s Best Free Tax Return Software?
As the saying goes, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. And with the latter season upon us, Canadians are looking for ways to make filing their taxes a little easier. Let’s face it, many of us approach doing income taxes with a feeling that lies somewhere between low level anxiety and absolute dread. Thankfully, there are a bevy of online tax software programs that can do the heavy lifting for us. Some of them even do it for free.
If you’re planning to file your own taxes this year, SimpleTax should be on your shortlist of apps to consider. The free online tax preparation software is incredibly easy to use, and is built to handle anything from basic returns to more complex tax situations, including investments, self employment, and rental income. In other words, it will get the job done for most Canadians.
SimpleTax has been around since 2012 and has grown in popularity with each passing year. Originally founded by designer Jonathan Suter, along with his wife Allison, a tax lawyer, and friend and developer Justin Reynen, the company was acquired by Canadian robo-advisor giant Wealthsimple in September of 2019. For now, the SimpleTax experience remains unchanged, but with Wealthsimple on board, users can expect to see some new and exciting enhancements in future years, a fact that should pique the interest of existing Wealthsimple clients.
What I love about SimpleTax is that it provides most of the functionality of the best paid tax software programs, for free. And it delivers it tall in a way that’s remarkably intuitive and easy to understand.
Let’s take a look at what you get with the 2020 version of SimpleTax. Again, SimpleTax is completely free to use, although they do provide an option to leave a donation after you’ve completed your return and are ready to file.
- 100% free (with donation option)
- Clean, easy-to-use interface
- Fast refund processing
- NETFILE approved
- Auto-Fill My Return
- Import previous year’s return
- Instant Refund Tracking
- Re-File capability
- Can handle investments, self employment and rental income
It’s 100% Free
Some tax return software programs complicate things with multiple tiers and price points, which can lead to confusion. SimpleTax has one tier, free. When you’ve finished filling out your return, you will have the option to leave a donation of any amount, but there is no obligation.
SimpleTax is NETFILE approved software, which means that when you’ve completed your return, you can transfer it to CRA directly from SimpleTax in a matter of minutes. They promise fast refund processing as well, an added benefit.
Auto-Fill My Return
SimpleTax can import more than 50% of your tax information directly from CRA, with Auto-Fill My Return. This saves you time by not having to manually input the data from multiple tax slips. You will need an active CRA My Account to take advantage of this service. Your previous year’s tax info, including details for your spouse and/or dependents can also be imported, saving you even more time.
Instant Refund Tracking
As you fill out your return, SimpleTax keeps track of your refund in real time. This gives you an idea of where you stand at all times. In addition, the refund optimizer is a handy tool that shows you how various deductions and credits can help you save tax, and get a bigger refund.
With SimpleTax, you can make use of Re-File, an online service that allows you to make adjustments to returns that you’ve already filed. The process is quick and easy, and enables the user to see how the changes will affect their refund, or balance owing. You cannot use Re-File to make changes to information that is found on the first page of your T1 General Return, such as address, or marital status.
Handles Complex Tax Situations
Unlike most free tax software, SimpleTax can handle more complex tax situations, like multiple income streams, self employment, or rental income. In other words, most Canadians will be able to process their returns with SimpleTax. If you have a tax structure that’s more complex than this ie. corporation, foreign income or properties, then you’re probably better off dealing with a tax professional.
You may be wondering how SimpleTax stacks up against Canada’s most well known tax return software, TurboTax. Both applications have a lot to offer, so let’s do a quick comparison. First of all, what you need to know is that TurboTax offers four tiers, at four different price points: TurboTax Free ($0), Standard ($19.99), Premier ($34.99), and Self Employed ($44.99).
In my opinion, SimpleTax is superior to the free version of TurboTax, due to it’s super clean user interface, and because it allows you to import your previous year’s tax information into your return, something you can only do with paid versions of TurboTax. While TurboTax is also very easy to use, if you are completing a very basic return, you’ll love how clean the SimpleTax UI is. Your entire return is done on one screen.
With the paid versions of TurboTax, you do get a bunch of bells and whistles that you won’t get with SimpleTax. And depending on what your needs are, it might be worth the money. For example, you can buy an audit defence add-on, and have a TurboTax professional review your return to make sure your tax savings are fully optimized. If you own a business, TurboTax has the Self-Employed tier, at $44.99, which is packed with extra tips and specialized guidance to help maximize all of your potential credits and write-offs. If the added guidance and features are important to you, this is where TurboTax shines.
Is SimpleTax Safe?
Whenever you’re required to input your personal and/or financial information online, you want to know that the software you’re using is secure. You can be rest assured that SimpleTax takes your privacy very seriously, and they use the highest levels of encryption when storing and transferring the data in your income tax return. The NETFILE service also uses the highest security levels possible. For details, visit the SimpleTax security page.
Is SimpleTax Right for Me?
If you’re filing a highly complex tax return ie you own foreign property, operate a trust, or draw income from a corporation, you should always consult a tax professional. They may charge more, but chances are you’ll save in the long run.
That said, if you’re like most Canadians, and your tax situation is fairly straightforward, SimpleTax Canada is pretty hard to beat. Not only is it fast and easy, and free, it’s jam-packed with features to handle most returns. If you’re a sole proprietor, you may also want to check out TurboTax’s Self Employed software, keeping in mind that SimpleTax can also handle self employed returns, for free.