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SimpleTax Review: Is This Canada’s Best Free Tax Return Software?

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.

Introducing SimpleTax

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.

SimpleTax Features

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.

Features At-A-Glance

  • 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.

NETFILE Approved

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.

Re-File

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.

SimpleTax vs.TurboTax

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 has 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.

Comments

  1. Andrew Brooke

    Great write-up! I’ve also been testing out SimpleTax and have found it to be very user-friendly an well-designed. I also appreciate the fact that it’s a “pay what you can” programme, although it’s so good I’m willing to pay!

  2. Karissa

    Thanks for this. I ran my numbers through Simple Tax and Ufile (my usual site) simultaneously, and found Simple Tax way more … simple! So I filed through them for 2015 and hope to do so again in the future.

  3. Ed

    I have used SimpleTax since 2012. Although it can be free I make a contribution as I think its worth it. Its good to use and support [ie pay for] a well written Canadian owned and developed product.

    My tax returns include T4s, T3s, T5s, Cap Gains/Losses and other incomes and expenses to contend with. It handles these with the ease you would expect.

    Its very simple to use and is my preferred choice for filing tax for myself and family members. I also like the fact that it does not try to upsell you all the time, unlike other well known tax software.

    So try it and if you like it – pay something.

  4. Joanne Birtch

    More information about SimpleTax for everyone happy to support this “Canadian company”

    On July 2, 2015 , TaxACT acquired all of the equity of SimpleTax Software Inc., a provider of online tax preparation services for individuals in Canada, for C$2.2 million (with C$ indicating Canadian dollars and amounting to approximately $1.8 million ) in cash. The Company also agreed to pay up to C$4.6 million (approximately $3.7 million based upon the acquisition date exchange rate) in aggregate contingent consideration over a three -year period based upon the achievement of revenue-related objectives. The acquisition of SimpleTax is strategic to TaxACT.

  5. Jonathan Suter

    Jonathan here from SimpleTax. That’s correct and we posted about this exciting news on our blog back in July, https://simpletax.ca/blog/2015/taxact?refCode=maplemoney

    That said, we’re still a Canadian company and everyone at SimpleTax lives and works in Canada. We’re also hiring Canadians to expand to Québec.

    For everyone’s information, Joanne Birtch is the Senior Director of Marketing and New Business Development at UFile (who themselves were acquired by Thomson Reuters, a multi-billion dollar corporation that is now headquartered in New York).

  6. Barb

    Does it have the option to import information from previous returns. e.g all the info for the first page of the T1 plus carry forward amounts for things like RRSP contributions and Tuition and Education amounts?

  7. Jonathan Suter

    Hey Barb! SimpleTax is able to pull most of that information directly from the CRA using Auto-fill My Return. We’ve got a guide that outlines everything for you, https://help.simpletax.ca/questions/switch-to-simpletax?refCode=maplemoney

  8. Barb

    Unfortunately I’m asking on behalf of someone who can’t use Autofill my Return because they don’t have a CRA My Account and can’t get one because they haven’t filed taxes since 2011. (To get a CRA My Account you need numbers from a recent return.)

    Since they need to file 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 returns it would be nice to able to start with the 2012 return and then import for the subsequent returns.

    • Jonathan Suter

      Ah, gotcha! And yes, if you start with a 2012 return, SimpleTax will automatically pull information forward for subsequent years, so you won’t need to re-enter everything from scratch.

  9. Barb

    Thanks for the quick response!

  10. judy

    Can I start my return, save it and come back at a later time or day?

    • Jonathan Suter

      You bet! All you need to do is sign up for an account.

  11. Bill

    Does SimpleTax make it easy to report information from forms T5013 and T5008?

  12. Richard Sherr

    I’ve been using Simple Tax for several years and like it a lot. I have one question. Can Simple Tax handle splitting taxes if it’s the final estate tax return for one of us?

    • Jonathan Suter

      Hey Richard! SimpleTax can handle final returns, however some of our automated optimizations aren’t available (i.e. pension splitting).

  13. Buzz

    I have used Simpletax for the past several years and it is just that – Simple!

    Highly recommend!

  14. Tahir

    It was my first year of tax return and I used Simple tax in 2017 (for 2016 return). It was way more user friendly than other software. I carried forward this year and it was an easy carry over plus the Auto-fill made it much much more easier than I thought it would be. Keep it up Simple Tax team!

  15. Denzil FEINBERG CFP, R.F.P.

    Useful comments on Simple Tax, I’ll tell clients & friends, thanks. Studio Tax has been good for me for 3 years, also Tom’s Tip I think. They’re in Ottawa, support the locals! I do, with some money too.
    Denzil

  16. Dave Dineen

    I’ve used SimpleTax for three years and am very impressed with it. It’s straightforward and intuitive. I’m so pleased that I donate probably a bit more than I’d pay for a competitor’s product.

  17. Ken

    Simple Tax is a great way to do taxes…..I could not believe how easy it is to use, plus it even corrects mistakes and fills in most things from the CRA using “Autofill”. The most complicated part is getting CRA’s My Account setup, which is the government, of course.

    My only question is, how do they make enough money to keep this going if it is free? I will certainly donate something to them, but with the talk of million-dollar purchase above, where exactly is the revenue coming from? Thanks!

    • Jonathan Suter

      Hey Ken! We are 100% supported by people like you. We keep our costs low (no fancy office, small team) so we can continue to operate on a pay what you want basis. 🙂

  18. Patrick Mothersill

    Just submitted my 2018 tax return with Simple Tax for the fifth year in a row. And as usual it was quick and easy. If you’re not using Simple Tax, you are missing out on the easiest, most affordable way to do your own taxes. Try them. You won’t regret it. In fact you’ll be happy you did.

  19. Terri

    Did I read correctly that simple tax doesn’t support pension splitting?

    • Lucille Clark

      Does not support pension splitting on a person’s FINAL return.

  20. Lorraine Parker

    Hi guys. I have used Simple Tax for years and love it! However, I am attempting to do a 2018 tax return for my sister from MY computer. I used it a few years ago for her. Problem is they are asking for her E mail address and password and it won’t accept her password because she changed it some time ago. So I am not able to proceed with her return.

    What can I do to get her return filed? 🙁

  21. Ben

    Can I use Simple Tax with a Mac?

  22. Gael James

    Thanks for your suggestion. I used Simple Tax and it was remarkably simple! Was happy to pay the suggested $30 at the end.

  23. Angie

    Used it last year, 2018, for all family members – super easy (preferred it over other software packages). Just finished my 2019, with carry-overs from 2018 – great!
    Now ran into a problem: it won’t load up 2018 for my husband “name has already been used”.
    Guess we have to create a bogus name and start him as a brand-new file. Too bad!

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