StudioTax 2021 Review: A Free Tax Software Alternative
It’s tax season, which means that here at MapleMoney, it’s time to update our many tax software posts, to ensure that readers have the most current information available when filing their taxes. This week, it’s StudioTax’s turn. In this review, I’ll cover everything you need to know about this long-standing, and 100% free, tax return software, and I’ll let you know how it compares to another top-rated competitor, Wealthsimple Tax.
UPDATE: As StudioTax is no longer free, I recommend Wealthsimple Tax or GenuTax for free options.
StudioTax 2021 Features
Founded in 2004, StudioTax positions itself as the “pioneer of free tax return software in Canada”. Sixteen years later, they haven’t strayed from the mission, still offering a completely free tax return experience. In fact, it’s one of the first things you’ll notice when you visit their site. While many of their competitors entice you with a free version of their software, they try pretty hard to sell you on the bells and whistles of pricier versions before you even begin your return. StudioTax won’t do that, because the option is not available.
StudioTax Enterprise is a version of software dedicated solely to professional tax preparers, at a cost of $198, taxes included. You must be a CRA certified tax professional to receive a license to use this software, but it included unlimited returns and advanced functionality not available in the free version.
I should point out, while StudioTax is free for you to download and use as you see fit, the company does accept donations. If you like the program, consider sending them a few dollars to show your appreciation for all the effort they have put into it.
StudioTax Canada: Features At-A-Glance
- Free software, with a donation option
- NETFILE certified
- Up to 20 returns
- No online or mobile software option, download only
- Available for Windows and Mac
- Can be accessed while offline
- Accommodates self-employment and rental income
- No paid version available
As mentioned, StudioTax Canada does not have an online version of their software. Users must first download the software onto their computer’s hard drive, and then file their return offline.
StudioTax is compatible with both Windows and Mac. For the 2021 tax year, it is compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10. If you require some assistance with downloading, a step-by-step guide is available via YouTube.
Filing Your StudioTax Return via NETFILE
Once you’ve completed your return, you’re ready to send it directly to the CRA for processing, using their highly secure NETFILE service. StudioTax will direct you to NETFILE, where you can upload your completed tax return to their secure server. StudioTax is fully NETFILE certified, so you can be rest assured that your tax return will be processed quickly and accurately.
How Does NETFILE Work?
NETFILE is a service provided by the federal government that allows Canadians to file their taxes online, eliminating the need to mail in your return. The quicker turnaround time also means that you receive your refund sooner, often within 1 week. In 2022, the vast majority of Canadians use NETFILE to submit their returns.
With NETFILE, up to 20 returns can be submitted from a single computer. This is helpful if you are completing taxes for friends and/or family members. Keep in mind that if you need to change your personal information, such as your name, address, or direct deposit information, you cannot do so via NETFILE. Instead, you must contact CRA directly.
While StudioTax can accommodate most individual returns, they do list a few restrictions on their website. For example, their software is not certified for use by non-residents. In addition, there are limitations for some farm businesses and individuals in Quebec who carry on business outside of the province.
Speaking of Quebec, I should note that the Mac version of the software is not certified for use by residents of that province. StudioTax is not equipped to file returns involving multiple jurisdictions. If none of these situations apply, then you should be fine to proceed with StudioTax. One nice feature is that you can complete up to 20 returns with the software each year, in line with NETFILE limits.
A tip about using StudioTax. You need to make sure you are always using the most up to date version of the software. Because StudioTax does not require you to delete previous years versions on your computer, make sure you’ve downloaded and are using the current version before starting your return.
StudioTax vs. Wealthsimple Tax
In recent years, another free tax return software has risen to prominence. Like StudioTax, Wealthsimple Tax does not offer a paid version and can handle most returns, including those with self-employment and rental income. You may be wondering how the two compare. True to its name, Wealthsimple Tax comes out ahead due to its incredibly simple and clean user interface.
It’s hard to describe just how easy Wealthsimple Tax is to use, you really need to see it for yourself. In fact, your entire return is completed on one page, something I haven’t seen with any other software. That’s not to say that StudioTax is cumbersome, by any stretch. Its quick Start Guide moves users through the process with relative ease. However, the look and feel of the StudioTax platform is somewhat dated, and could certainly benefit from a refresh. Aside from screenflow, the other big difference is that Wealthsimple Tax is accessed online via the cloud, whereas StudioTax is download only.
Who Is StudioTax Best Suited For?
As you can see, StudioTax is a fully capable, download only, free tax return software. It has the ability to handle most returns, including situations with self-employment and rental income, and investments. If you are a resident of Quebec however, keep in mind that the software is available to Windows users only.
So who is the ideal StudioTax user? If you are someone who is extremely reluctant to have your personal information ie. SIN number, home address, tax info, recorded anywhere online, regardless of the security features offered by a software program, then StudioTax is a great option. On the other hand, if you don’t have any hang-ups about online filing, then my top choice would be WealthsimpleTax, due to its intuitive user platform. For a full list of tax return options, you can check out this article on the best free tax return software programs in 2022, which has been recently updated.
I don’t think I’ve heard of StudioTax before; but, now that you mention its free, maybe I’ll give it a try!
Can you still use the program to get an ‘estimate’ as to how your taxes are supposed to turn out or is its sole intention to file online for you?
I have been using StudioTax for a few years. You can file online or simply use it to do an estimate for you, or check the math of another program. It can also print out a return for you to mail in if you don’t want to file online. Really, it’s win win all around.
How do we know it has been sent? I got no email or confirmation….
It’s a great program, easy, simple, consistent, reliable and FREE.
To check that your return was sent you login with CRA my account and confirm.
Filed using StudioTax last year, worked like a charm. Even my accountant was impressed.
I have been using StudioTax for years and it does give you the option of “What If” scenerios. It does everything the other tax preparation softwares do and it is free.
This is my 3rd year using Studio Tax. I do my wife’s and my taxes with it including our small unincorporated business and it works like a charm. Highly recommended.
Where in studio tax is there a section for unincorporated businesses?
use form t2125 delectable from forms drop down.
I used StudioTax last year for myself, husband, parents, and grandparent; I also did a sanity check with TurboTax. The two gave almost identical results for most of us, and TurboTax gave a slightly higher return for my husband for some reason, never could figure out why.
I’ve used StudioTax the last three years and I’m going to use it again this year. Apart from the visual look which could be a bit more polished the only other issue I have with it is that it doesn’t do Quebec taxes – so I still have to do those by hand.
I still think the CRA should have online forms for completing your taxes.
I used StudioTax for our returns and was thoroughly impressed with its ease of use and, of course, with its price.
I will gratefully contribute to this small but very professional team rather than further bloat the coffers of Intuit et al.
I’m big fan .. been using it for 4 years.
I am a big fan of Studio Tax. works beautifully.
I tried a few software and found Studio Tax is the best. I am impressed with its professional design and friendly interface.
You guys did a great job!!
I can’t believe I only found this now.. If all goes well I will drop a few dollars to the developers.
Used Studio Tax first time for 2010 tax return. I got audited for my medical expenses. I had to submit all receipts and a declaration as to the 12 month period covered. I could not find a place to indicate the 12 month period used for medical expenses when filling the forms in Studio Tax.
Your review of StudioTax is signed but not dated. And you don’t mention the year of the program. You can’t review it one time and be truthful for years there after. Products change and improve.
I used StudioTax 2010. Enjoyed it over GenuTax 2009, 2008. But didn’t like not being able to edit the form directly after going through the interview. I didn’t like the lack of hyperlinks to supporting data. I didn’t think the help references switching to the internet particularly easy to navigate.
This will be the third year I’ve used Studiotax and I am happy enough with it that I give them a small donation.
I think that you are carrying it a little far to suggest that the developers are not “legit” and the software is “fake” because of a minor grammatical error. If I was one of the developers, I would not feel very good after receiving such accusations over a minor detail. I’ve seen grammatical errors in major newspapers, so are they “fake” or not “legit”? The company doesn’t have the resources of the commercial boys, yet it is approved by CRA and it works.
Hello,this is amazing that someone can complain about grammatical errors or whatever makes you annoyed and receive it for free. I am a Tax Preparer and certified. I have done taxes over 20 yrs. By paper and using software. I just did a return and found it so easy and fast and clear. I help people for free doing taxes who are disabled and poverty strickened.I get nothing in return like getting paid.it’s just my volunteering and helping someone in worst situation then me. I count my blessings there are developers out there offering this for free and not pay.Why should someone pay for a program to do taxes.I have also used Turbo tax without restrictions and equally good. I believe you have to educate yourself in doing taxes manually and knowing your schedules instead of criticizing. Spend more time on doing taxes instead of immaterial little things. Go out and buy a software. I will support the developers. Also you have NetfIle how great is that. All I know is I have more money in my pocket for not buying a tax software. Have gratitude and respect that’s all.
I emailed the support team. “I thought you were legit and I almost used your software to file my taxes but there are grammatical errors such as using your instead of you’re so I wonder if you are a fake program designed to get my personal information.”
I expected one of two things. 1) no response if in fact you were not a legit company. or 2) an apology with the reassurance that these errors would be corrected and the wish to have me as a customer.
The response I actually received:
Really? you based your investigation on grammatical errors? Over the years we heard all sort of weird and wonderful things about the software…this one take the top price for the weird category!
Of course, you will not trust us if we tell you that StudioTax is as legit as the best software out there.
StudioTax Support Team ([email protected])
I think customer service has left the building.
Colleen go to the CRA Website and they are one of the few approved software’s …And have you ever heard if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.
LOL at Coleen.. sending an email like that and expecting an apology. shaking my head..
Lighten up, it’s freeware, it’s been around for over 10 years, it’s been ok’d by CRA and best of all I like it 😉
If you’re really nice maybe they’ll give you a refund.
Which is correct?
Studiotax is great software and legit.
More “professional” customer service.
StudioTax Support wrote:
You have no idea how much hard work and long hours went into developing the software over many years. Other companies spend millions of dollars to develop similar software and they make 100s of millions on the back of Canadians selling it. On the other hand we give it for free and we even spend long hours answering users emails to help them do their taxes…and because of a grammatical error you accuse us to be scams trying to steal your information?????
Regardless of how you feel about my reasons, you are supposed to represent your company in a respectful and professional manner. That more than anything keeps me from wanting to have anything at all to do with you. (You personally now). A viable company should not send me sarcastic emails. It should apologize for the unprofessional content of the software, assure me that you will forward this oversight to your supervisor and that you would hope this small mistake would not keep me from using your software.
Really? How many customer service professionals do you expect they hire using the fee you paid for the product?
For that price, the only thing I expect of the software is that it counts correctly, and StudioTax does much more than that. This was the third year I used it quite contently. The unique interface takes a minute getting used to, and beyond that it’s smooth sailing.
There are many other PAID options out there. For the rest of us who aren’t offended by poor grammar it works splendid! StudioTax is a great FREE tax program.
If you do not like it don’t use it, simple, they will not miss you since it is free.
No one in the world likes being “accused” wrongfully. If you suspected the software was not legit, just walk away. If you liked the software which is free, and found a problem just report it “professionally”.
You know Colleen, I’m with you all the way. Free doesn’t have to mean rude/sarcastic/entitled. The customer is always right. We are still customers when the service is free. Customer service drives success. If I get GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE for a free product, I would pay for the product if they ever decided to charge for it, because I had previously enjoyed a great experience dealing with them. About what other users say, “don’t use it if you don’t like it” Well, we don’t use it, and I thought a website with reviews allowed for good and bad reviews, so stop being such nobs with someone that had something unfavorable to say. I came to check the reviews to decide if I should give this product a try, and this incident has made me decide to go with Intuit. Good luck to you all.
P.S: Jasper: “Really? How many customer service professionals do you expect they hire using the fee you paid for the product?” You don’t hire customer service professionals. You just need to act professionally yourself 😉
The customer is not always right. Many are self important liabilities who are best fired.
Wow! Your “My response” is full of grammatical errors!
Colleen is the biggest troll on the Interwebs. Well played Colleen, well played. Troll on!
Oh Colleen, there’s always that one person that has to complain for no real reason. They owe you nothing. You didn’t waste your money on this program since it’s free, just your time was wasted….and since you continue to post about Studio Tax on here about their errors…you clearly have time to waste !
Get off the internet and go fly a kite Colleen. 🙂
And wasted the support teams time whining, when they could be dealing with a real concern.
Colleen: You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Hi there, I have a question pls if you can help me, I couldn’t find anywhere to claim the Annual Maintenance Credit in Studio Tax. What am I missing?? thank you!!
When I save file in studio Tax it saves in a different format.
I need to save in .tax format.
Colleen, you are not a good person.
Colleen is absolutely right. I too was thinking of using studiotax, but when I saw all the spelling errors on their web site, I changed my mind. It all seemed strange that a company could develop sophisticated tax software but couldn’t spell simple words.
I hope I am wrong about the company, but in the meantime I will not be using it. In this day and age of identity theft, is it really worth saving two or three dollars in postage fees to use a free product of dodgy description? Come on people, think a bit. I don’t want to be reading about a bunch of Canadians who lost their identity to a Chinese hacking firm.
Ryan, are all hacking firms Chinese? Grammar or slander, I think we all can agree that errors can be made.
Identity theft? You don’t give Studio Tax any information before you download the product. If you are very wary you can use the software on a computer that is not hooked up to the internet then print and mail the forms. Or you can Netfile and use the same process as you would for any other (not free) tax preparation software.
(I hope I managed to type the above without grammatical errors!)
They are programmers developing sophisticated software for free not grammar Nazi’s.
Tell ya’ what. Grammar Nazis: code a great software and create your own grammatically correct webpage
If you ever have done programming, you would know the syntax can be very convuluted.
My language skills declined when I was programming.
Colleen and Ryan, I am not sure if you two are just lazy or just look for a reason to be negative. http://www.netfile.gc.ca/sftwr-eng.html StudioTax is CRA certified. Colleen, your ignorant email accusing StudioTax was rebuttalled with a witty response that you deserved.
Used StudioTax in the 2012 tax year for my return and my wife’s (in Quebec, so federal and provincial). Despite the early 2000s style interface, I found it to work pretty well. However, it is much less interactive than the other program I usually use. The wizard covers the main questions, like dependents and medical expenses, but doesn’t go over all the possibilities and special cases. You must go over the forms one by one to make sure everything is filled out. I double-checked my return by re-entering all the data in that other program (for which you only pay if you submit or print it) and there was a difference in the total refund (in Studiotax the dependents had been claimed on the less-advantageous return). So I overrode Studiotax defaults and then everything matched up. The submitting of the forms went very well.
I haven’t used StudioTax since, mostly because I don’t have complete confidence that it will guide me towards the most advantageous options, but also a tiny bit because of the low quality interface.
WITH STUDIO TAX, HOW CAN I INPUT LANDING DATE FOR FIRST TIME TAX FILING OF A NEW IMMIGRANT?
I NEED YOUR HELP. THANKS A LOT.
I file a paper return every year and was sad to learn in 2014 you will have to file electronically. It is ironic someone has to spend their own money to show the government what they did with their own money. I like to opt for the free services and StudioTax looks promising.
Here is what helps me on my tax returns:
I start my taxes by getting a blank piece of paper and the folder that holds all my tax stuff, t4’s t5’s and forms etc.. then
1 – make a heading for T4 another for T5 etc…
2 – make box number headings from corresponding form underneath each heading with amount and line number they go to on the tax return.
I check them off as I enter them. That way I know haven’t missed anything.
I have used this program since my 2012 return and I can’t believe how easy it was to use!!! No more paper return for me!
I file my taxes manually (pen, paper and calculator) like I have for the last 40 years. It find it helps prevent Alzheimer’s. 🙂
Colleen: For someone so concerned with grammatical errors, you should have proofread your own post. You have no grasp on the proper use of punctuation or capitalization. Maybe you are here trying to steal all of our information… Or… Maybe you are just someone from another software company that has been paid to plant a bad review. Some customers (aka trolls) do not deserve service when they have bad manners and a poor attitude.
For some reason StudioTax 2014 was buggy for me and kept pointing out errors and eventually after using TurboTax had short changed me over $500 in refunds.
I’ve been using this program for at least 5 years (and TurboTax and Quicken before that) and it is excellent. I think the difference is that StudioTax was written from the ground up to support Canadian Taxes vs being a program that is modified to support specific countries from the big guys. It’s not as flashy but perfectly easy to use and I’ve never had an issue. It generates paper, efile and PDF formats and allows you to do what ifs and optimizes between spouses automatically. I ALWAYS donate to them after successfully filing my expenses. I recommend it to all my friends and families.
First, I want to say I love your program and have been using it for the last four years and since I have no complaints, I will continue to use it. Those that worry about fraud or security issues, should do their research.
My problem today tho, is I am having problems with trying to submit my return to the CRA.
I work with google chrome on windows vista. I keep getting the error message “remote name could not be resolved” ‘apps.cra-arc.gc.ca’.
Does anyone know how I can fix this? Need help asap.
i have the same problem too
I am trying to use studio tax and I can’t figure out how to get the forms large enough to see! All I am getting are tiny forms and and box on the lower left that is only partial and won’t take data. What am I doing wrong?
I have used StudioTax for several years now for my personal income tax. It is super easy to use (I have tried others). I’m a single mom and struggle to make ends meet so this free software is great. I always make a small donation whenever I file however. Thanks StudioTax!
This is a great free tax software. I’ve been using this to prepare tax for myself and my spouse since 2007. Simple to use and you can actually import tax report from ufile as they both use same filename extension. In terms of security of info, this is secured as you have the option to just download the software, disconnect from the internet/network and prepare and print your tax for mailing. This software is certified by CRA! In the past, they are able to assist me in rectifying problems at no cost!
– easy to use
– excellent layout
– excellent support
– CRA certified for NetFile on both Windows and Mac platform
– it’s free for up to 20 returns
– how they include ios and Linux platform in the future
What do you do when trying to netfile it tells you you’ve transferred disability credit from your spouse but you have not. On checking my return, I find no claim for same on either the T4AP summary or on Schedule 1. My husband has enough income to claim his own disability and he did. Any solution for
Override Capital Gain subtotal in Sch.#3 (StudioTax):
For it’s Personal Portfolio Services (let’s leave the cost/benefit of this for another conversation!!), CIBC Wealth Management provides an annual “Client Tax Satement – Gains (Losses) from Sale of Securities”. There is a long list of transactions and related particulars, but there is also a overall Gain(Loss).
In previous years, I was able to enter this the overall Gain into Schedule 3 as the subtotal “Gain (or loss)” for Section/Paragraph#3 (“Publicly traded shares, mutual funds, etc…”). I could do this because I was either completing the paper returns manually or using a spreadsheet-based return known as MyTax (MyTax lets me punch in the number).
I moved to StudioTax this year because MyTax 2014 is not available. In StudioTax’s Schedule 3, the subtotal “Gain (or loss)” for Section/Paragraph#3 is a “computed field”, and I cannot directly enter the overall Gain. Instead, the form requires all the particulars for each transaction, and the fields do not match those in the CIBC statement.
Is there a way to override the computed field so that I can directly enter the overall Gain from the CIBC statement? I do not consider it feasible for me to figure out what has to go into the form otherwise. In previous years, I’ve tried a number of times to delve into the technicalities of how to generate the required data from the CIBC data, and it is a neverending labyrinth. I suspect that forensic accountants might be able to figure it out with sumpreme effort, but that’s hypothetical scenario is not helpful in this reality.
StudioTax is great, and I used it for the past 7 returns. I should point out that there is a glitch that prevents display of T3 and other slips on a netbook in the T slips tab. The view size function doesn’t work either for that tab, and the two phenomena may be related; I feel if the magnification could be made smaller, those other slip forms would appear. Results may vary with machine, but the problem isn’t new. They are available in the tree-view, elsewhere, however.
All the slips under that tab are fully visible in the Mac version, incidentally.
I have used Studio Tax for the last 8 or 9 years. Great program! There were some complaints about customer service in the comments. Which are unjust. I have had some questions over the years and always had a reply in 4 hours.
These guys are not a multimillion dollar corporation. They are programmers and I assume some accountants are mixed in. They do an awesome job all around.
This is the first year I actually broke down and used the software to do my taxes instead of paper. I was having to go back and redo my calculations on paper so many times forgetting about this form and that form and the odd mistake.
This software was a breeze, I got exactly back what it worked out to be. I was done in 2 hours after slogging through a couple hours the night before and a few hours the night after filling out a paper return, then I was almost done and realized I should have done income splitting and also forgot about another form I should have filled out.
It’s nice to hear this package getting good reviews. I myself tried it but found the user interface to be somewhat lacking. Still, it’s free, and if it works, then of course use it!
Another good program is SimpleTax. It’s an online tax tool, so you have to comfortable doing your taxes online, but it’s very well designed, simple and elegant. It’s a “pay what you can” programme, but it’s so good, I don’t mind paying a bit for it.
For a full list of CRA Netfile-certified apps go to:
With so many good, free software apps out there, I think the days of paying for tax software are numbered.
I actually have a SimpleTax review in the works, check back later this week!
Retired and have been using studio tax for two years, 2015 will be my third year. The program is easy to work with and the biggest kudos is it is safe.
where do I claim medical expenses
HOW DOES THE REFUND WORK? DOES GET DEPOSITED ON YOUR ACCOUNT DIRECTLY? BECAUSE I’VE HEARED THAT ON TURBO TAX, THEY HOLD YOUR REFUND FOR A PERIOD OF TIME AND IT IS SO DISAPPOINTING THAT THEY’LL PASS YOU AROUND TO GO FOR YOUR MONEY.
This response is to the person who put down this product (you know who you are.) I am a qualified software engineer. First of all, to most programmers, the importance of good code far outweighs that of good grammar. They may also be working in a second or even third language. Can you do as well? Maybe you haven’t noticed but in this day of technology, grammar has gone the way of the dinosaurs. I feel bad about that but it is what it is.
I filed my tax return using studio tax saved it and now I’m having problems opening the return to view.
Has anyone found a glitch with Studio Tax 2014 and 2015 with the T slips – when the amounts are entered, they are not saved in the final version of the tax form?
Used it many, many times and ni glitch.
I have used StudioTax for 5 years. It is simple to use. I would highly recommend.
The spreadsheet approach is one of the unique strengths of StudioTax. Keeps things plain, simple and fast. Great program for anyone with a basic knowledge of the government tax forms.
I am reading the reviews for this tax return program. I will be giving it a try.
I am amazed that a person actually takes the time to complain about your typo? Really! To that person, I say if you really think that this service isn’t for you, then feel free to give your money to H&R Block. Maybe the person you deal with doesn’t speak English well, but will still take your money… Shame on you for being so petty. Do you not like the idea of FREE?
StudioTax is free, very professional and always improving. Customer Service always answers in a very timely manner with excellent responses to help me. Great work StudioTax Team!!!!
I went to download Studio Tax 2020 today …. they are now charging $16.95 with tax!!
Great program but not FREE anymore … unfortunately I will seek an alternative.
New For 2020
In order to meet the ever-increasing maintenance costs and to support our employees, we are unfortunately no longer able to offer StudioTax as a free software. To keep the software around and improving for many years to come, we are asking for your help by paying $15.0 for a license before printing and/or filing the return. You still get the maximum number of returns (20) allowed by CRA. We are still offering the software for free for users with income less than 20K and for our northern residents (NT, YT, NU).
Thank You ! Studio tax is a great software to use . Used it for many years, no issues what so ever.
I used to use Intuit and switched to Studio Tax early in its history because it was less expensive and simpler and straight forward to use.
It’s a GREAT piece of software and a small donation is only fair. And always accurate ….. I’ve never had CRA disagree with the results.
Being that the group operates out of Ottawa, I wonder if anybody else has ever considered the developers might be CRA tax staff/auditors who got fed up receiving shoddy returns and decided to moonlight their own software package ….. ??
Just like everything else, the cost of the software has doubled as you now only get max of 10 returns instead of the traditional 20 for the same $15 which started 2 years ago. I’ve been with Studio from it’s free inception to it’s now $15 price tag. Now I’m going have to charge the seniors I do tax returns for 🙁