The current state of Tax Preparation Software supports the statement “Anyone can prepare accurate tax returns at home”. For the 2009 taxation year more than half Canadian taxpayers filed their tax returns electronically via NetFile. If you would like to join those millions of Canadians junking pencils, erasers and complicated paper returns, you have 2 options..buy Tax Preparation software and prepare your tax returns on your PC or use web based on line preparation.
While I have full confidence in the security measures in place at the online websites I still like to have my files on my home PC so I will focus on the most popular packages available for preparing returns for Quebec taxpayers.
UFile (ImpôtExpert in French) from Montreal based Dr. Tax and TurboTax ( ImpôtRapide in French) formerly QuickTax from American based Intuit have quite a few things in common. Both install easily and update automatically, both use an interview process to simplify return preparation, and both are able to deal with fairly complex tax situations including small business and investment income. Both packages will import 2009 data created by the other package.
UFile opens up to a simple tabbed user interface. The first tab, The Interview is where you you will spend the most time. It starts off with questions that complete the information section of your tax return..much of the information will have been imported from your 2009 return if this is not your first time using Tax Preparation Software.
The next few pages help you establish the kinds of income and deductions you may have as well as information regarding your Drug Insurance status for the Quebec return and whether to handle your spouse’s return as a separate entity or combine the two and optimize the two tax returns.
Preliminaries out of the way the Interview takes you through the steps to enter your income from your T-Slips and Business income (if you indicated you had business income). The interview continues asking for deductions such as medical expenses, donations etc. and finally your choices regarding disposition of balances due or owing.
Once the interview is complete you jump to the Results tab which allows you to double check the amounts entered and finally the Return tab will show you the complete tax return including a handy Executive Summary. If you are satisfied the NetFile tab walks you through filing your Federal and Quebec returns electronically.
TurboTax starts off with a series of questions to identify yourself and your spouse. Throughout the process you have access to a virtual assistant, Tina if you have questions as well as a community of users you can ask for advice.
The next step is to establish your tax profile which is accomplished with a series of questions about what kinds of income and deductions you may have. Tips pop up in areas that may be confusing. Hyperlinks in every question take you to more detailed information about the question.
As you step through the various stages of the interview..indicated by tabs at the top..you see a roadmap of your progress at the beginning of every step.
Once you have completed the interview the review section goes over deductions you may have missed or offers suggestions on tax saving opportunities or how to optimize both returns.
Once that is done TurboTax walks you througn electronic filing of your returns.
In addition to the Interview process TurboTax also allows you to use a forms view. In this mode you fill out the necessary forms and schedules as required and see the results on the tax returns instantly. It is much like doing your returns by hand except the software takes care of the math and reminds you if you forget something.
Both TurboTax and UFile will produce accurate tax returns with little or no pain. It boils down to price and preference. I find the TurboTax Interview more intuitive and easier to keep track of where you were. I found I was able to get lost on the Ufile Interview. Personally I prefer the Forms view in TurboTax, it gives me more of a feel for what I am doing and it makes fairly complicated “What If” scenarios easy to accomplish.
I must admit that I have been using the Intuit product for my tax preparation for more than 15 years so I am comfortable with the layout. I expect a newcomer will find either TurboTax or UFile equally easy to use.
UFile for Windows has a list price of $29.95 and will allow you to prepare up to 8 returns. As I write this on March 9, 2011 UFile for Windows is available at Future
Shop and Best Buy for only $19.99 for eight returns or $29.99 for 16
TurboTax Standard is $29.95 and will also allow you to prepare up to 8 returns. Intuit also offers a basic version for $19.95 which is good if you have a simple return with only T4s and donations. There is also a Premier version which contains tools for mhandling Investment and rental income for $69.95 and a Home and Business version for the most complicated situations for $99.95. Those last two allow you to prepare a dozen returns.
Both companies also offer online versions. Ufile Online is $15.95 per return (+$9.00 for spouse) and TurboTax in $16.99 per return.