If there is one thing I can’t stand is doing taxes. I’ve always done my own taxes and although it wasn’t too much of a chore when my financial situation was simpler it was still a pain. Now I have investment income, investment sales, a small business and things are a lot more complicated than they used to be. Of course once I finish my return this year I’ll be thinking “that wasn’t so bad” but the problem is that by the time I do my next year, I’ll have forgotten too much info and the process will be painful once again. This is one of those tasks that if you did it monthly, it would be a lot easier to do.
Please note that Canadian QuickTax is now called TurboTax
I decided to use QuickTax Business edition this year – at one time the idea of paying $40 for fancy software just wouldn’t have happened, but now I value my time far more than money so I don’t mind paying a bit extra if it will make the tax return easier.
Why don’t I use an accountant you might be asking? Well, I don’t know – I had thought about it this year but one of the problems I have with an accountant is that I still have to do all the bookkeeping tasks in order to give the proper info to the accountant. I don’t have an accountant so I have to go through the process of finding one. It might happen still but not this year.
I had been using a cheap efiling program for the last few years which was basically the electronic equivalent of using paper forms. In other words – no help at all. I was always skeptical of claims about products like QuickTax and TurboTax (American equivalent) that they could “help” you with your return.
I have to say that I was quite amazed with TurboTax. Basically you go through the screens filling in appropriate data. If you need help or clarification at any point then you can branch off onto a different set of help screens.
One of the main advantages I found with QuickTax over the simple program I used to use is that you don’t have to know anything to use QuickTax. For example if you made RRSP contributions and want to record them on your tax return then you need a schedule 7 form. With my old program, I had to look that up and ask the program to load that form before I could enter the info. With QuickTax, it asked me during the process if I had any RRSP contributions and then provided boxes to fill in. Same thing with dividend income, interest income, interest expenses, business income and expenses.
An example of the type of help
I thought I would show exactly the kind of help you can expect. At one point in the return it asks you if you are eligible to claim for the spousal amount. There is a little check box in case you don’t know if you are eligible or not.
If you don’t know what the spousal amount is or whether you are eligible for it then click the box and you get a pretty good explanation of the spousal amount.
Drawbacks of QuickTax
I was very impressed with some of the features of QuickTax – the help function and interview process is a huge benefit for someone who is filing taxes for something they haven’t done before (ie new business) or haven’t filled out many tax returns.
The problem is that if you do know what you are doing then the interview process gets very cumbersome, very fast. In my case I have struggled with a simple tax return program for the last couple of years, but I have learned all the forms I need and how to fill them out. After a while I realized that I would be better off with the old program and decided to give up on QuickTax. It’s a great software package but it’s just not useful if you know what you are doing.
I also haven’t given up on the accountant idea either – one of the things that came apparent with the QuickTax interview process is that there are quite a few questions that I need answered regarding my business (incorporation?) and even dependents – are kids dependents for tax purposes?
For the record, if you don’t have a business then there are lower priced options – in fact there is a free option but you need to have a fairly low income to qualify. The cheapest version for most people is the online $15 version which should be pretty good. The premier version will cover things like investment moves and the business edition will handle your unincorporated business. There is also a corporation business version but I doubt very many people with corporations will do their own taxes.
Online or desktop?
I was planning to get the desktop version (the one you download to your computer) but the cost was $100 whereas the online version was only $40. Pretty easy choice.
What do you use to do your taxes? Does anyone else with a business do their own taxes?