Software

What’s new in QuickTax 2009 (and Giveaway)

January 25, 2010

170 comments

QuickTax is Canada’s leading tax software product and it is easy to see why. When compared with all its competitors, QuickTax has the slickest and most intuitive interface and provides the maximum flexibility by allowing users to prepare their taxes with either the interview method or directly using forms or switching back and forth between the two. As in previous years, QuickTax Desktop software comes in four main flavours: Basic ($19.99), Standard ($39.99), Platinum ($69.99) and Business Unincorporated ($99.99). All flavours allow you to file eight income tax returns (same as last year) and the main difference between the various product tiers lies in the range and sophistication of the interview process. If you are comfortable preparing your taxes directly with the forms and don’t need any guidance, Basic should be sufficient for your purposes.

I asked QuickTax executives to give us a rundown on what’s new this year. Here’s what they told me (my comments are in italics):

  1. Life Changes Profiling, available on Standard and higher tiers, guides tax filers through life changes that affect their tax return such as a marriage, a new baby, starting a business or going back to school. In my limited test drive of QuickTax Standard so far, I found this feature to be well integrated within the interview process.
  2. You can now import 2008 tax data from UFile or H&R Block and automatically import tax slips from epost.ca, CanadaHelps.org and RRSP providers. A lot of tax filers seem to demand an import feature but I find this to be of marginal use. After all, how long does it take to type in your name, date of birth, address and SIN number? However, I can see directly importing tax forms being useful in eliminating input errors.
  3. QuickTax has expanded its support options and offers free technical support through phone, chat and email for all product tiers. A new feature called “Ask a Tax Expert”, which costs $15, allows tax filers to ask unlimited questions and receive responses directly from a taxexpert. I found that QuickTax has integrated its community within Standard, which might be useful if you are stuck. For example, the screen where you enter your income slips has, on the right sidebar, useful questions like “Where do you enter union and professional dues?”, “I’ve cashed bonds. Where do I enter them on my tax return?”, etc. The answers come from QuickTax community of users but a quick check revealed that the quality of responses is very good.
  4. Audit defence was successful last year and is once again available for $39.99 this year. I wrote about this last year and have little to add to my comments. See post What’s new in QuickTax 2008.
  5. The online version of QuickTax has two free options. QuickTax Free Online and QuickTax Student Online. If you are preparing just one return and are comfortable preparing taxes over the Internet, the online versions of Standard ($16.99) and Platinum ($29.99) are much cheaper.

Giveaway: I received copies of Standard and Platinum versions of QuickTax 2009 for review purposes. I have installed and test driven the Standard version but I don’t think I’ll have the time to check out the Platinum version. That’s where you come in. I’m giving away one copy of QuickTax 2009 Platinum (retail value of $69.99) to a lucky reader. You can enter by simply leaving a comment in this post (please do not send an entry via email) and don’t forget to include your email address. If you are reading this through your favourite RSS Reader, you have to click through to the website and scroll to the bottom of the page and type in your comment. Some quick rules: (1) Deadline for entries is 8 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 26, 2010. (2) One entry per person. (3) Canadian residents only. (4) I treat your privacy very seriously. Your email will be used for the sole purpose of contacting you if you happen to win. (5) I’ll pick one entry at random and announce the winner after the deadline.

What’s New in StudioTax 2008?

February 1, 2009

26 comments

Last year, I reviewed StudioTax, found it to be of very good quality and ended up Netfiling our taxes using it. Many Canadians seem to agree — StudioTax reports that more than 100,000 taxpayers used the software to file their returns in 2007. I asked the developer of the software for an update on what’s new for the 2008 tax year and here’s what I found:

  1. StudioTax now has the ability to split pension income for senior couples.
  2. Taxpayers can now print a PDF copy of their return without installing third-party software such as CutePDF. Those filing paper returns can select the forms they would like to print.
  3. The forms for inputting the T-slip information has been cleaned up. Reporting your share of interest, dividend and distribution income from joint accounts has been made automatic.
  4. StudioTax now automatically updates itself by checking if a later version of the software is available on the website.
  5. StudioTax has already received Netfile certification from the Canada Revenue Agency. The Netfile-certified version will be available on the website shortly.

The developers are hoping to have a Mac OS version of the software available for Apple users in the near future. Also in the works: software for filing Quebec provincial taxes.

The personal version of StudioTax is free, though the developers are asking for a donation to support their efforts. They are also diversifying by releasing an enterprise version of StudioTax for professional tax preparers. The enterprise version can be used to E-File tax returns. The first 20 returns are free but heavy-duty users are required to buy a license (cost $150) for unlimited returns.

What’s New in QuickTax 2008?

January 25, 2009

33 comments

After a less than stellar experience trying to sell less product for the same price, Intuit is taking a new tack this year – it is offering a feature called Audit Defence that QuickTax users can optionally purchase (at a cost of $39.99 per return) when preparing their taxes. According to Intuit, QuickTax users who purchase Audit Defence can avail the help of an experienced tax professional who will deal with the CRA in the event a taxpayer is audited.

QuickTax users will be faced with two questions this year: (1) Should they consider buying Audit Defence? (2) Assuming a taxpayer likes the idea of not having to face CRA alone, can they obtain representation cheaper elsewhere?

The type of users who do their own taxes will typically have very simple tax situations – they have one or two T4s, some RRSP contributions, childcare expenses, charitable donations, dividend and interest income and perhaps a small home-based business – and presumably doesn’t involve a deep understanding of the tax code. In these cases, an “audit” is usually nothing more than the CRA checking to see if they actually have the receipts. For instance, recently my wife’s tax return was selected for review. CRA wanted to see receipts to support her claim for child care expenses, which is a relatively straightforward affair and in my opinion, doesn’t justify paying for expert representation.

Some taxpayers would still rather not face the CRA by themselves, which is understandable considering the awesome power the tax agency wields. They may want to check out the new kid in the block: H&R Block is now selling desktop and web-based tax software for the same price as QuickTax Standard but it looks like they throw in a similar feature called Audit Assistance for free.

Also new this year in QuickTax: a pension income optimizer to take advantage of the new rules that allow seniors couples to split pension income. To my knowledge, UFile was the only software that included an optimizer last year.

Now that QuickTax has increased the number of returns, would you consider going back? Have you been audited by the CRA? If so, what was your experience like? What is your take on Audit Defence? Is it, as Michael James wondered in a recent post, similar to extended warranties sold by retailers? Is this another instance where it is cheaper to self-insure (i.e. hire expert representation after the CRA sends an audit notice)?

[Edit: The original post incorrectly referred to QuickTax 2007. It has now been corrected]