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I have been working since I was 7 years old. That is 29 years of employment (with a couple of small gaps we’ve discussed on mass). While a number of those years were spent delivering papers – where my income was nowhere near the tax threshold – obviously I’ve also been paying taxes for several years. For several years I used a tax return service at a kiosk in a store.
With school credits I was getting a small refund most years and this place offered an instant refund. At the time I wasn’t stopping myself from spending like a madman so the faster I could get the money the faster it could be spent. Notice I said I WASN’T stopping myself, not that I COULDN’T stop myself. Accountability is important.
The Jig Is Up
As I started to become more financially aware I started to realize that the employees at this particular service were not exactly pros. I had relatively simple questions and they seemed to just type in my question to their software and then read out the response. They were no more accountants than WebMD is a doctor. The fees were also escalating to the point where my small refund wasn’t enough to cover the costs. I knew this wasn’t the solution for me; I had to find another way.
Resistance is Futile
There are a number of software based tax return solutions on the market. At first I was a bit resistant to using these – accuracy in income tax returns is kind of important and I was petrinoid (that is a combo of petrified and paranoid btw) that I would get audited and have to pay fines for not doing it properly. After Sarah and I got married and started investing, our tax situation became a bit more complicated. I refused to go back to the kiosk service and an actual accountant was going to hit the budget pretty hard. So we took the leap and tried the software – it was remarkably easy. For a fraction of the cost of the kiosk service I was getting the same result.
Yet ANOTHER Option
Recently Sarah and I discovered another option for doing taxes yourself for Canadians. It is a pay what you can service through an online platform called SimpleTax. When this option first came up I was resistant again…surely this must have flaws and must only be for people with the most basic of returns. Then I had another thought…we already purchased our tax software this year so why not run an identical situation through both programs and if the end result is the same my concern would be quashed!
The Proof is in the Pudding!
Here is the situation I used. Single income person with 1 dependent living in Ontario. Full time job with an annual income of $46,500 in 2017. $250/month RRSP contribution. $100 charity contribution. $719 in medical expenses for the dependent. Not the most basic possible, but nothing out of the world.
SimpleTax: Took 8 minutes to fill in all the information and have a return ready for the CRA. The refund amount was $3,147.44
Tax Software: Took 14 minutes to fill in all the information and have a return ready for the CRA. The refund amount…$3,147.44
NOTE: I don’t recommend that you do your taxes as quickly as possible to try and beat my time – I usually check and double check my return before I send it in so it takes a bit longer than even the 14 minutes.
ADVANTAGE OF TAX SOFTWARE USED
While it did take longer, the tax software provided more of a question and answer format which might identify opportunities for credits you may miss otherwise. These credits are generally for very specific situations though and if they apply to you, you likely are already aware of them. When entering in the income information the software provides a description for each number the same as it does on your T4 which is good for confirming you are putting in the right information if you are unsure of yourself.
If you have a complicated tax situation (foreign investments, capital gains/losses, etc) the additional resources available with the software are helpful as well.
ADVANTAGE OF SIMPLETAX
Not only did the process save a few minutes but it really simplified the process. In particular the process of claiming the eligible dependent tax credit was MUCH simpler using the SimpleTax platform. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the tax software, but those aren’t a requirement for filing your taxes. If you do it for real and have an account with CRA it can actually import some information for you. Desiree at Half Banked breaks down why you should get a CRA online account here.
I was pretty impressed with the SimpleTax platform and it was reassuring that the end result (a completed T1 return for the government) was the exact same when checked box by box, page by page. I would say the SimpleTax solution would work for the majority of people I know and would certainly have been better than going to the kiosk!
PS: If SimpleTax seems like a good solution for you I do recommend you check it out.