Archive for March, 2010

Quick Review: UDoTaxes 2009

March 21, 2010


If you are looking for free software for filing your taxes, you now have a choice to make. StudioTax is once again available for the 2009 tax year and in my limited test drive of the 2009 edition, I found it to have the same high quality and ease-of-use that I noted in my original review. But UDoTaxes, which is also free to download and free to print and file or NETFILE offers an equally good alternative. Just like StudioTax, the developers behind UDoTaxes ask for nothing more than a voluntary contribution via PayPal to support their efforts. UDoTaxes supports the direct entry method of preparing taxes and though the software has a list of interview questions, the interview method is fairly basic.

I downloaded and installed UDoTaxes on my Windows Vista laptop and when I ran the software for the first time, it prompted for the usual information such as name, SIN number, Mailing address etc. and created the tax returns for the taxpayer and spouse. The software looks pleasing and follows the typical pattern of listing the summary and forms navigation on the left-hand pane and clickable CRA tax forms on the right-hand pane. You can enter tax data through the T-slips, which look exactly like the ones you receive in the mail. The T-slip screens can be accessed either through the toolbar icons or from the form list or by clicking the corresponding box in the T1 General screen.

Screen shot of UDoTaxes Main Page

UDoTaxes has some clever touches. Clicking on a box in the T1 General lists the related forms, which allows you to select the one you want to work with. If a form is incomplete, it is prefixed with an “x” button the forms panel. A RRSP Optimizer and a Pension Split Optimizer are built into the tool. In my opinion, UDoTaxes looks just a bit more polished and a little bit more responsive than StudioTax but both products are extremely good and the price is right.

This and That: Dragon Profiles, the Pain in Spain and More…

March 18, 2010

  1. The Star profiled the five venture capitalists — Jim Treliving, Kevin O’Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and Brett Wilson — who appear on CBC’s popular show, Dragon’s Den. I found Brett Wilson, who is projected as a dragon with a heart on the show to have the most colourful profile. Mr. Wilson depiction of Mr. O’Leary as the “moronic outlier of capitalism” is also spot on.
  2. Spain’s debt problems might trigger a perilous second phase of the global financial crisis, weakening the Euro, dragging down economic growth and spread the contagion to other large economies like Italy, says this report on Knowledge @ Wharton.
  3. Should you refinance your mortgage early to take advantage of today’s low rates, especially with BMO and CIBC offering competitive five-year fixed rates? Rob Carrick crunched the numbers and reported his findings.
  4. Canadian Couch Potato explained how to divide your portfolio between RRSP, TFSA and taxable accounts. You can always rearrange your portfolio at any time but if you want to avoid tax headaches, you are better off locating the assets properly in the first place.
  5. Larry MacDonald draws attention to a frequently overlooked tax credit — the disability tax credit.
  6. Canadian Personal Finance blog draws attention to a two recent interviews featuring Harry Markopolos, who blew the whistle on Madoff long before the Ponzi scheme unravelled.
  7. Mike from Four Pillars debates whether a zero-based budgeting system, where you track every penny of your income and expense is worth his time.
  8. Michael James grapples with a rent-versus-buy decision for his hot water heater. Years ago, I decided that it makes much more sense for us to just buy the water heater outright as well.
  9. Superbad advice is an entertaining new website on the seamier parts of the investment industry. In a recent post, the author who goes by the moniker Gordo wonders why fund managers go on TV offering stock pick advice.
  10. Million Dollar Journey finds out how capital gains within a corporation are taxed.
  11. Ending the Rat Race offers his take on choosing between a RRSP and a TFSA.
  12. It is not exactly a secret that they are a cash cow but it’s surprising how profitable extended warranties are.
  13. Gail Vaz-Oxlade wonders if many investors who are leveraging to invest have Clue One about the risks they are taking.

Mortgage Free? Ask for a discount on your home insurance

March 18, 2010


In response to a recent post on auto and home insurance premiums going up in Ontario, Cindy, who buys her insurance through the Co-Operators, commented that her auto insurance premiums went up by 9.6 percent and home insurance went up by 22 percent. When she called, there was little the insurance company could do about the auto premiums but Cindy found that Co-Operators offered a 24 percent discount on home insurance if there was no mortgage on the home. As Cindy had recently paid off her mortgage, she qualified for the discount.

Turns out, Co-Operators is not alone. When I called our insurance provider — Belair Direct — to inquire about a discount on home insurance for a paid-off home, I was told that Belair’s discount on home insurance for a mortgage-free home is 15 percent. It’s a good bet that your insurance company may also offer a similar discount. A paid-off home is a giant step forward in achieving financial independence. Who knew that holding that mortgage burning party has side perks such as a discount on your home insurance?