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    Software can help reduce annual stress of tax time

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver March 20-26, 2007; issue 908

    High Tech Office column; 

    As I write this, the Canada Revenue Agency has temporarily shut down its various online tax return systems: Netfile, Telefile and eFile. According to CRA, the problem is not due to hackers or computer viruses and has been traced to software maintenance conducted on March 4. The system should be back up and running any day now. So by the time you’re reading this, it should be business as usual as we count down to this year’s deadline.

    Estimates are that about half of all Canadian returns are filed electronically, many making use of personal tax software. And while consumers can happily continue using, say, Microsoft Office 2000 for years, blithely ignoring newer product releases, they need a new version of tax software for each year’s returns.

    UFile, produced for 20 years by Montreal-based Dr Tax Software, is available in boxed standard edition ($20) and plus edition ($30) and online (at starting at $16 (free to students). The plus version offers free phone support, the ability to prepare up to 12 returns (versus six with the standard version) and a new retirement planner. The retirement feature automatically draws on age and income information entered into the tax return and provides estimates of retirement capital.

    QuickTax from Intuit Canada is also available in both boxed and online editions. In addition, the desktop version can be downloaded from

    QuickTax is available in a range of versions for both personal and business returns. All promise to help maximize deductions and optimize RRSP and RESP contributions. QuickTax Web costs $20 for a single return; the standard boxed edition ($40) can be used for up to five returns. The $60 platinum edition keeps that limit on returns but adds investment and retirement planning and investment tracking. The $100 Quicken suite bundles Intuit’s Quicken personal and home business finance software with a copy of QuickTax platinum.

    The $60 QuickTax business unincorporated edition can be used for only two returns, but offers additional features to optimize business expenses and deductions and to help track expenses and manage home-based business finances.

    The $100 business incorporated edition can only be used for a single return but allows users to file the T2 tax return required of incorporated businesses.

    The desktop editions of both UFile and QuickTax can be used to prepare an unlimited number of returns for people with less than $25,000 net income.

    QuickTaxWeb is free for people with gross household income of $20,000 or less; UFile’s online version is free for people with the same $25,000 limit as its boxed versions.

    Returns produced with both UFile and QuickTax can be printed or NetFiled.

    According to a January 2007 Decima Research study commissioned by UFile, 44% of Canadians put off filing until April, a figure in line with the 45% who reported that filing their own returns resulted in a moderate to high amount of stress; 32% of those polled reported that it was “likely” that they unintentionally overlooked exemptions or writeoffs when filing their returns.

    UFile vice-president Joanne Birtch suggests that “it’s important Canadians not fear tax season, but embrace it, simplify the process and file on time.”

    Maybe “embracing” tax season is too much to ask, but increasingly sophisticated and usable tax software should help many taxpayers lower the inevitable stress of this time of year.

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