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SimpleTax vs. TurboTax: Free Tax Software Comparison

Canadian taxpayers have until April 30th to submit their personal taxes for the previous year. 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 can be free and rather intuitive to use. While some providers, like UFile, for example, are more suitable for certain demographics such as students, first-time filers, and low-income filers, others, such as SimpleTax and TurboTax Free, can handle more complicated tax returns.

Here’s how SimpleTax and TurboTax Free compare:

SimpleTax

SimpleTax Logo

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.

Product: SimpleTax

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.

SimpleTax Optimizations

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.

TurboTax Free

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.

Product: TurboTax Free

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.

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 robust and intuitive free tax software providers.

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20 Comments

  1. Me on April 20, 2018 at 3:59 am

    In light of recent revelations surrounding privacy, unethical and/or illegal use of personal information by Facebook; perhaps future reviews of tax prep tools will include comments of how the tool responds to and protects personal privacy concerns.

  2. Mike Martin on April 20, 2018 at 5:15 am

    Very good article. There may be other programs out there too but an excellent one I have been using for years is Studio Tax from BHOK in Ottawa. Payment for use is another ‘donate what you want’.

  3. littleleftie on April 20, 2018 at 5:17 am

    I have used both products and can happily report that I have found Simple Tax easier to use. Our returns, my husband and mine, are relatively simple. As such, Simple Tax handled the processing of our return without any hassles. I found that Turbo Tax, although also easy to use, did have some areas of the return that caused me some confusion. This wasn’t the case with SimpleTax. Overall, for my situation, Simple Tax will be my choice for next year.

  4. Matt on April 20, 2018 at 6:58 am

    I have been using Ufile for sometime now…a great product and no issues. It gets better each year as well but always seems to never be on the radar for similar reviews.

  5. Wally Halliday on April 20, 2018 at 7:14 am

    What about H & R Block?
    Where does this program place in the tax software ratings?

  6. carl on April 20, 2018 at 8:03 am

    I have been using genutax.ca since 2003 and it works great. It is donation ware as well.

  7. Gert on April 20, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Hi, This is a great comparison but I noticed the TurboTax review mentions ‘TLS encryption’ where SimpleTax does not. Does this in anyway imply SimpleTax to be less secure?

    • Jonathan Suter on April 20, 2018 at 10:18 am

      No, absolutely not.

      In terms of SSL/TLS encryption, SimpleTax scores an A+ (vs. TurboTax’s A).

      https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest

      • Gert on April 20, 2018 at 7:06 pm

        Thanks Jonathan!
        I decided to try my hand at both Turbo and Simple, here are my personal findings;
        Turbo was easy to use and returned expected results but when I had questions and called their support I was simply told to call CRA. To find something in the SW I was told they would need to remotely connect to my computer, I thanked them and hung up.
        With Simple I found the setup to be straight forward and easy to complete. The result was even better than Turbo in terms of our (me and my wife) returns. When I reached the end and clicked to optimize the return An extra amount was somehow found. Now, I’m not sure where the amount came from but given the fact that I can review line by line it shouldn’t be too hard to find. As for SimpleTax phone support I can’t comment because I simply didn’t need them.
        If you have the time going through both is worth the effort and I believe that in the end if there are minor mistakes CRA will find them through their own assessment.
        Thanks again!

  8. Dave on April 20, 2018 at 10:00 am

    I used turbo tax for years. I twice had issues with them that were unresolved despite many hours on the phone with someone. The second time it was someone in the US. After being unable to resolve the problem with turbo tax I went to SimpleTax and had my return done in a few hours with no issues

    • Vito on April 20, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      I have never filed my own taxes for fear of not knowing what I what I am doing and perhaps paying more taxes that I should or not receiving the refund that I deserve, as such, always just went to my account which I have done for over 20 years and I only pay $50 cash with simple taxation, including dividends, foreign dividend tax credits and capital gains, so I think I’m doing okay. However, I’ve always wanted to learn how to do it, just for the sake of learning, but never confident I knew enough how to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not referring to fear of software, I work in IT I am super tech savy, its more of not knowing the ins and outs of taxation for efficiency sake.

      My question for you Dave, you mentioned that with a good experience it took a few hours to complete your return, is it typical to take a few hours to complete? or is your tax situation more complicated?

      • Dave on April 22, 2018 at 8:44 am

        Hi Vito,

        My tax situation has been complex in the past and perhaps that was part of the issue I had with Turbo tax. I did my 2017 taxes last night using auto fill and it was still 2 hours. I had 20 or so slips.

        If you are able to have your taxes done for $50 I would stick with that because I think you are getting peace of mind from having someone do them.

  9. Dw on April 20, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I have used Ufile for 14 years and have never had a problem. As a recently retired professional with moderately complicated investments, it is a viable alternative to TurboTax and typically half the price. What I do not like about most of the “free” software is that they are usually done on-line, which means that your personal information, including your social insurance number, resides on a server that may or may not be secure. Over the past few years there have been data breaches at some very large and notable companies, yet many people do not take their personal identification seriously. To date I have always purchased boxed software, with enclosed dvd, so that when I prepare my return, all critical personal information is on my computer only, not some remote server. This year I have also started to look at some of the “free” software, and would like to point out that Studiotax software is downloaded to your computer and not run on a remote server. I think that any analysis of income tax software should include an assessment of data security.

  10. Wes on April 20, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve been using Simple Tax to file our returns online for 4 years. It’s simple to use for our simple situations – no complicated investment issues just dividends and capital gains from investment in stocks.
    I donate money for their cause and help them to improve their services.
    Gert, Simple Tax is approved by CRA as a certified tax filing agent. I would imagine they (CRA) did their due diligence in checking Simple Tax’s security setting.
    Can anyone confirm if the Auditor General does auditing on the CRA’s operation?

  11. Stephen Butcher on April 20, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I have used Turbotax for many years. However this year the program has made many mistakes (first time I did it online). Data entered under my wife’s earnings appeared on my side too. The Turbotax help line just told me to erase two hours worth of inputting and start again, but the program froze during the second inputing of data. It just kept looping with the same questions.The upload from CRA went good but the upload of last years data of Turbotax to this years went badly.
    Interesting I did both Turbo and Simply (too much time on my hands?) and they came up with different amounts the wife and I owed. Simply was higher by about $100.

  12. moneyhelp on April 20, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    It sounds like either of these two platforms are web based and not standalone programs, is this correct? Personally I use a Mac, and although it shouldn’t matter, is there a browser in which either works best?

    • Jonathan Suter on April 21, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      I use a Mac too! Any modern browser will work: Safari, Chrome, or Firefox.

  13. mae on March 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    turbo tax has that Audit protection feature. I wonder if SimpleTax have the same…

  14. Ken on April 7, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    I used Simple Tax last year, and am using it again this year as well.

    It is very well-named…..anyone can use it. (I have a “my account” with CRA, and it automatically fills in most of my return with the push of a button).

    If I ask questions, they are quick to answer, very helpful, and seem to have a light-hearted approach…..bizarre as it may seem, it’s actually kind of fun to use.

    It is indeed free, but I gave a donation as before I was spending lots on an accountant who retired recently, and so I don’t mind giving them something for such a nifty tool.

    It makes suggestions for deductions you might not know about, checks over the return and points out errors, and generally is much better behaved than my cat.

    Check it out……

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