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    Intuit building online tax solutions for Canadians

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business in Vancouver 
     March 22-28, 2005; issue 804; High Tech Office column

    For Intuit Canada, makers of Canadian QuickTax and CanTax tax software, Canadians set a milestone last year. According to Intuit's Jason Smith, half of all Canadians prepare their own tax returns and for the first time, more of those returns were prepared using tax software than paper and pencil.

    Other software sellers may be in a quandary over how to convince users to upgrade to their latest and greatest versions, but vendors of tax software have it easy: customers have to purchase a new copy each year to cope with changing tax regulations and rates. According to Smith, this year's edition of its 13-year-old best-seller QuickTax has few new bells and whistles. Instead, it improves installation with automated update features and boasts improved print features such as the ability to print out individual schedules. Also new: users can save returns in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format, a very handy feature; in the past, users had to keep old versions of QuickTax handy if they wanted to view their saved returns.

    Intuit Canada has beefed up QuickTax product support: the product's built-in help has been improved and its support staff has been increased by 50 per cent. Access to support is free for QuickTax customers.

    QuickTax has used product activation for several years; installation is tied to a single computer. A single purchase of the product allows the buyer to prepare up to six returns for individuals earning over $20,000. (An unlimited number of returns below that threshold can be prepared). Additional returns can be purchased if needed.

    As in previous years, QuickTax is available in a variety of packages: the standard version costs $40. A $60 custom edition includes retirement, investment and small business modules; the user can install any single module. For $80, the platinum edition installs all three custom modules along with a set of tax and investment publications and guides, tips, and income trackers. A $250 platinum 100 edition adds the ability to prepare up to 100 returns. And the $100 Quicken Suite bundles QuickTax Standard along with Intuit's well-known Quicken XG personal finance software.

    Intuit Canada also offers online tax returns ( featuring a fast track interview for users with simple returns and new family pricing of $20 plus $5 for each additional family return. Nice feature: online customers can view their proposed return prior to being asked to pay for the service. Online customers with income below $20,000 can access the service for free.

    Former competitor TaxWiz, now also owned by Intuit Canada, is a completely separate product built by a different development team. It offers a more basic product for $25, along with an online version ( Both QuickTax and TaxWiz are NetTax certified, allowing users to send their returns directly from their personal computers (or from the online versions) without having to mail in printed versions.

    Intuit's Smith foresees future partnerships with institutions producing electronic tax statements. This would allow users to receive digital versions of their payroll and investment forms that could be automatically entered into their tax software resulting in almost automated tax returns.

    While many Canadian divisions of large software companies exist as local marketers for products produced elsewhere, Intuit Canada creates products such as QuickTax, TaxWiz, and WillExpert (for will preparation) designed from the ground up for Canada.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan