Hate doing your taxes? Well, we did it four times. That time of year has come again. If you're used to slogging through the paperwork - or worse, just ignoring it - a variety of software and Web sites can dramatically simplify the process.
Each claims a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices that guarantee you the best return, but we've seen pretty consistent results across the board, so ease of use is really the primary factor to keep in mind.
The first decision you'll probably make is whether you go with a tax Web site or boxed software. If you hate software installations and you've already got the latest browser and a fast Internet connection, the Web could be your best bet. Alternatively, if waiting for pages to load makes you see red, you're probably better off with software.
Whether you use software or the Web, both methods usually give you the option of printing out your docs to send via snail mail or using Netfile.
Ufile.ca for Macintosh (Netscape recommended) and PC
USER FRIENDLINESS The interview process is very straightforward. The screens for the various forms (T2200, etc) mimic the paper versions almost exactly, a real bonus for ease of use. The major stumbling block comes after you've finished the interview (hint: look up, waaaay up, and press the Results tab). But aside from that, UFile.ca is remarkably uncomplicated, with a little help icon beside each and every field.
Price $12.95 single return, $7 to add a spouse
Confusion factor Very straightforward.
Try before you buy factor Enter it all and see the results. You'll only pay once you're ready to print or Netfile. Ufile for Windows Rating: NNN
Price $29.99, includes 10 returns
USER FRIENDLINESS While we definitely prefer the Web site version, this is an option for those favour the installed software route. There are a few more snags than you'll face on the Web, but for your trouble you'll receive a chocolate treat!
CONFUSION FACTOR Deleting entries caused our brains to throb. It's much easier on the site!
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY FACTOR No trial, although the software is fairly similar to the site. QuickTaxWeb.ca for Mac (Internet Explorer recommended) and PC
USER FRIENDLINESS This site presents an easy-to-follow interview-style walk-through,and tiny little videos along the way give you the feeling of visiting a virtual accountant. However, there are a few areas where you'll think you took a wrong turn: the more complicated your return, the more likely you are to get confused. The RRSP Maximizer lets you experiment with different RRSP contributions and the resulting deduction. It's a nice touch except that we're well past the March 1 deadline.
Price $19.95 single return, $5 to add a spouse
Confusion factor Minimal for straightforward returns, increases with complexity.
Try before you buy factor Fill out almost all your info - but you'll have to fork over the bread before you're able to see your results. QuickTax for Macintosh, QuickTax Standard for PC
USER FRIENDLINESS The old favourite of people who've been using software to assist in tax filing for years. The two are very similar functionally, the biggest benefit of QuickTax being its ability to import information from Quicken.
Price $49.95 (Mac), $39.95 (PC), includes six returns
CONFUSION FACTOR A few wrong turns were caused by not-so-well-explained areas.
Try before you buy factor No trial, but QuickTaxWeb is very similar to the software version.
GriffTax Simple for Windows Rating: NN
USER FRIENDLINESS It certainly ain't pretty, and the navigation leaves much to be desired, but if you've got a very straightforward tax return it will get the job done. GriffTax doesn't yet have Netfile approval (check the Web site for details), so your only choice is to print 'n' mail.
Price $19.95, includes six returns
CONFUSION FACTOR Mommy!
Try before you buy factor Download from grifftax.ca; payment required before printing.