by John Bidner, Sooke
COST: Free, donationware
Platforms: Windows and Mac
Other: CRA and Revenue Quebec certified for Netfile and printed returns; 20 returns limit
A coworker told me about StudioTax five years ago and I’ve been using it each year since 2010 to electronically prepare and submit my and my wife’s income tax returns.
StudioTax is available for both Windows and Mac OS operating systems. Installation is easy and the help documentation is quite good. The interface looks a little 1990s, but this is purely cosmetic. A “wizard” program steps you through the entire process of entering your tax info. You can run it multiple times without losing the data you have already entered, allowing you to work on your taxes over several sittings. The program can easily handle multiple T4 slips, and entering your T4 information is as simple as typing the values into the program’s spreadsheet-like interface. At any time, you can review the electronic version of your tax return (page by page) from within the program, so you can actually see the calculations the program has been making in the background. Once or twice in the five years I have used StudioTax, I went back and manually overrode an value the system hadn’t entered, but other than this, I have found the software to be excellent in all respects.
My and my wife’s returns are linked, so our information automatically updates when I make changes to either return. Each year I can create a new tax return based on last year’s, which rolls over the personal information from the previous year. To date, I haven’t had any problems with losing data, as I just keep previous years’ versions of the software on my computer. The program also includes an “Optimizer,” which looks through the returns you have prepared and provides you with suggestions that might improve your tax situation.
When you are ready, the program allows you to submit your returns online through the CRA’s Netfile service, providing a truly end-to-end tax preparation experience. Having once been a pencil and paper filer, I can say this program has made tax time much less excruciating for me. Plus it’s free!
IMPORTANT: This year, StudioTax has already been certified by the CRA for Netfile and printed returns. However, if you like it and decide to use it next year as well, make sure you wait until BHOK IT (the developers) confirm on their website that the program is CRA certified before you download it! Wishing you all many happy returns! -jb
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