Published On: Mon, Apr 16th, 2018

Which free software should you use to file your income tax return?

Canadian taxpayers have until April 30 to submit their personal taxes for 2017. Despite that deadline fast approaching, many wait until the last minute to prepare and file their taxes.

The good news for do-it-yourself tax filers is that basic tax preparation software is free and rather intuitive to use. Two of the main free software providers are TurboTax and SimpleTax.

Here’s how they compare:

TurboTax Free

Company: TurboTax is part of the Intuit family and is Canada’s number one tax software, providing free options for Canadian tax filers for more than a decade.

Who it’s for: Anyone can use TurboTax Free as it works on PC or Mac and covers simple to complex tax situations.

Features: TurboTax Free can instantly import tax information from the Canada Revenue Agency with Auto-Fill My Return.

The software includes a complete A-Z list of deductions to make it easy for customers to find the deductions that apply to them.

TurboTax Free includes guidance at the topic level to help customers file. For instance, students will be guided through the student section.

A review section provides both suggestions on credits/deductions that may apply to their situation, as well as ones that do apply. The software then guides the customer back through their return and helps them apply the recommendations where appropriate.

TurboTax Free returns are saved in the program for one year, but customers can print the document or save a PDF on their computer.

TLS encryption ensures no one else can access your account, and Multi-Factor Authentication means your account cannot be accessed unless you have access to a device on which you’ve previously signed into your TurboTax account.

Who it’s not for: Tax filers who are looking for a lot of guidance should consider paid products.

TurboTax Free customers who decide they want more guidance can upgrade to a paid option that includes full guidance, interview-based profiling and other features.

For instance, TurboTax Self-Employed is the only software in Canada that is designed specifically for persons with self-employed income and provides expert-guidance specific to these individuals.


Company: SimpleTax was founded in 2012 by three tax and software professionals. Based in Vancouver, with a team across Canada, SimpleTax built its platform with user experience in mind and won an award for best customer experience at the Vancouver User Experience Awards.

Who it’s for: The SimpleTax platform is built to handle simple returns and complicated tax situations, including business, rental and investment income.

Features: SimpleTax can instantly import tax information from the Canada Revenue Agency with Auto-Fill My Return.

Your entire return is on one page and your refund is updated instantly as you type. A smart search feature lets you add things to your return in any order.

Get maximum refund optimization, which includes pension splitting, spousal dividend claims, the allocation of credits and deductions between partners, carry-forward amounts, and suggestions for additional deductions and credits you may be eligible for based on your tax situation.

Users can access Express NOA, a secure Canada Revenue Agency service that allows individuals and authorized representatives to view the notice of assessment (NOA) in their software, right after the return has been received and processed.

SimpleTax customers can also use ReFILE, an online service that lets individuals and EFILE service providers send online adjustments for income tax and benefit returns.

After successfully submitting your return to the CRA, they’ll ask if you’d like to support SimpleTax. You can pay what you want, including zero. There are no income limits, restrictions, up-sells or ads

Who it’s not for: Anyone can use SimpleTax as long as they aren’t subject to any of the NETFILE restrictions, for example if you went bankrupt in 2017 or 2018, or if you are a non-resident of Canada.

The verdict:

TurboTax has been a household name in Canada for more than 20 years and more than 32 million returns have been filed using TurboTax software since 2009 alone.

SimpleTax is the new kid on the block, a tax software provider that believes most people should be able to file their own return and that cost shouldn’t be a barrier to getting your full refund.

Your mileage may vary depending on your personal tax situation, but you can’t argue with the price of these two free, robust and intuitive tax software providers.

Robb Engen blogs at Boomer & Echo. Reach him at

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Which free software should you use to file your income tax return?