On the recommendation of a reader, I downloaded StudioTax for a test drive. To be quite honest, I didn’t have high expectations – I thought that the software would be functional and accurate but clunky – but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and ease-of-use of the product. StudioTax is free to download (the 2007 version is already available) and free to use and is capable of filing up to the CRA maximum of 20 tax returns and all the developer behind the product asks for is a voluntary contribution for his efforts. The product is seamlessly bilingual and supports complicated tax cases – a short list of exclusions is listed on the website.
It’s really easy to get started – as soon as you enter information such as names, SIN numbers, address and T4 information, you get access to a what-you-see-is-what-you-get tax return form. You are given access to the T1 General Form, Federal Forms, Provincial Forms and T Slips through a tree view on the left or tabs in the bottom of the page. I found the product extremely simple to use – just enter the data through the T slips or click on the boxes (hint: you can enter information in the yellow boxes) in the T1 General form to bring up the relevant forms.
I was surprised, astonished actually, to learn that a product of such high quality was developed by one individual, who has twenty years of software experience, with support from his family as a hobby in his spare time. I had a pleasant chat with the developer and asked him if we should be concerned about the accuracy of the results. He replied that his product has undergone multiple rounds of testing and unless it passes the same battery of tests that every competing product undergoes and achieves a 100% pass rate, it doesn’t get certified by CRA. Unlike the rest of the software industry, the tax preparation business operates under a simple credo laid down by the CRA – if it fails a single test case, it doesn’t get certified.
I’ve decided to use StudioTax to file our taxes this year. I haven’t tried everything out with the software yet, but I did try entering some T4 slips, RRSP contributions and Child care expenses and I think it should easily handle all my tax needs for this year. Since UFile has a satisfaction guarantee and a 60-day full refund guarantee, I’ll take advantage of it and return the product because, in my opinion, StudioTax is so much easier to use than UFile. And I’ll be happy to redirect the refund to the developers of StudioTax as a thank you for their efforts.
The software is available for download from the StudioTax website (did I mention free?). Try it and let me know if you think the product is as great as I think it is (Just so we are clear, I don’t have any monetary incentive for writing this post). The developer also mentioned that he would love to hear feedback and the current state of the software is the result of vast improvements suggested by users over the years.