Best Free Tax Return Software For Canadians (2021)

Filing your taxes online has never been easier with the many tax software available to Canadians. Not only that but these days you can also complete your online tax return for free or very cheap.

Basically, unless your tax situation is complicated or you run a sizeable business, you can safely say “adieu” to your accountant and not lose out on any tax deductions or credits.

For the 2019 tax filing season, 89.9% of Canadians filed an electronic income tax and benefit return, with 58% using EFILE, 30% using NETFILE, and a negligible number using the File My Return Service.

The tax return filing deadline for the 2020 tax year is April 30, 2021. Self-employed individuals and sole proprietors have until June 15, 2021, to file their income tax and benefit returns.

How To File Your Taxes Online in Canada

There are two main ways to file your taxes online in Canada i.e. using NETFILE or EFILE.

NETFILE is an online transmission service provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for individual filers to send in their tax returns without needing the paper tax forms.

In order to prepare your online tax return using NETFILE, you must use a CRA-certified tax preparation software such as TurboTax and several others.

Tax return submissions through NETFILE go directly to the CRA in a secure format.

EFILE is an electronic submission service used by tax preparers to transmit your income tax return information to the CRA.

If you are not comfortable with using NETFILE or have a complicated tax return and require professional help, an accountant or tax preparation firm can use EFILE to file your tax return for a fee.

Starting in 2018, CRA now offers a “File My Return” service that lower-income Canadians can use to file their income tax and benefit return for free.

Individuals who qualify for this service receive an invitation letter in February with instructions on how to proceed. For questions relating to using File My Return, call CRA at 1-800-959-8281.

Free Tax Software for Canadians

Free Tax Software in Canada

Here are some of the tax software certified by the CRA for NETFILE tax return submissions. They all offer free options to file your taxes and some have paid versions as well.

Typically, the free version can handle most tax situations. However, the software provider may have restrictions based on your income level and there may be limited to no phone or email support available.

My general advice is that if you are in doubt, start with the free version and only upgrade if required.

1. TurboTax Free

TurboTax is the most popular online tax return software in Canada.

While TurboTax offers a free, standard, premium and self-employed versions of their software, the free version covers all the main basis and is recommended for simple tax returns.

You can use TurboTax on any device including smartphones.

Here’s what you get with the free TurboTax software:

  • NETFILE-certified.
  • Up to 20 free returns per year.
  • Auto-fill My Return compatibility which imports your tax information directly from the CRA.
  • Maximum refund guarantee. They pay you $9.99 if you get a larger refund or smaller tax due by using any other tax method.
  • 100% accuracy guarantee or they will repay any penalties caused by a TurboTax calculation.
  • Instant access to your notice of assessment after submitting your return using NETFILE.
  • They offer REFILE if you need to make adjustments to your return.
  • TLS encryption to secure your personal information.
  • It is available in Quebec.

The free version does not offer phone support with one of their tax specialists, however, you can find answers to your question using their free online community.

If you need to use a paid version of TurboTax (e.g. Standard service for $19.99), you can get a 15% discount here.

Read our complete TurboTax review.

turbotax canada

2. Wealthsimple Tax (SimpleTax)

WealthsimpleTax (formerly SimpleTax) is a Canadian software that offers a “pay what you want” model for filing your tax return. SimpleTax was founded in 2012 and was acquired by the popular robo-advisor, Wealthsimple, in 2019.

WealthsimpleTax currently offers only one main product i.e. there are no tiers in the service you get.

After you have submitted your return to CRA, they ask you to support them to the tune of $0, $9, $19, $34 or $49. What you pay is totally up to you.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect:

  • Easy-to-use online tax software.
  • Step-by-step guidance and a 100% accuracy guarantee.
  • Maximum refund using their refund optimizer and get your refund in as little as 8 days via direct deposit.
  • Encryption to secure your private information.
  • CRA-certified with Auto-fill My Return compatibility.
  • Choose how much you pay.
  • Up to 20 returns per account.

You can learn more about the platform in this WealthsimpleTax review.

File your taxes with Wealthsimple Tax.

3. H&R Block Free

H&R Block has been offering tax services to Canadians for more than 55 years. It has 1,000+ offices where you can go to obtain tax services in-person or drop off your documents, as well as robust online tax software for do-it-yourself filers.

There are three main options for filing your 2020 tax return online with H&R Block: Free ($0), Assistance ($19.99 per return), and Protection ($29.99 per return).

Here’s what you get with the free service:

  • NETFILE-certified.
  • Automatic refund maximization.
  • Easy-to-use platform.
  • Access to an online help centre.
  • Auto-fill My Return downloads some of your tax slips directly from the CRA and Revenu Quebec.

If you want some assistance and support to complete your tax return, the Assistance product offers unlimited tech support and the ability to transfer last year’s tax details.

Alternatively, if you want audit protection, priority support, and the ability to store your return online for 7 years, the Protection service works great.

You can save 15% off the regular prices if you choose to upgrade.

File your taxes with H&R Block.

4. uFile Free

uFile is an income tax return software you can directly access online using a Windows or Mac computer, tablet, and smartphone. They also have a Windows version that requires you to download and install the program on your computer.

uFile is available free of charge to students regardless of their income. This free service is offered through its partnership with the Canadian Federation of Students.

The tax software is also available for free if you are:

  • Filing a simple tax return i.e. you are reporting only one employment income or pension income (OAS or CPP).
  • A newcomer fo Canada and are filing your first federal tax return.
  • A low-income taxpayer with a total family income that is less than $20,000.

The paid uFile tax service starts at $19.95.

Similar to the other tax software on this list, uFile also offers:

  • ReFILE
  • Guaranteed Accuracy and tax results
  • Security

It is NETFILE-certified and is available in Quebec.

5. CloudTax

If you are looking to complete a simple non-business tax return, you can do so using CloudTax.

CloudTax was founded by Nimalan Balachandran and the tax software is certified by the Canada Revenue Agency.

They offer a free service (CloudTax Free) and a paid service (CloudTax Pro).

For the free service, you get:

  • Auto-fill My Return.
  • The ability to access the platform via the web and mobile (iOS and Android).
  • Encryption to secure your data.
  • Online tax return storage.
  • Optional audit protection for $2.99/month.
  • Access expert help at $29.99 per return.

CloudTax is currently not available to residents of Quebec, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. CloudTax Pro starts at $29 per return.

6. GenuTax

GenuTax is a NETFILE-certified tax software that is only available as an installation file on Windows computers.

It is free to use and handles most tax scenarios. They request a voluntary donation to support the company.

Limited customer service is available through email and you can prepare up to 20 tax returns every year.

7. AdvTax

AdvTax is provided by Aclasssoft Inc. The tax return software is available using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. The program supports multiple languages including English, French, and Chinese.

It is also:

  • Free
  • NETFILE-certified
  • Easy-to-use. As per their website, it should take you about 5 minutes to complete your tax return.

StudioTax

StudioTax is a tax program that is available on Windows and Mac. It is no longer free and now costs $15 for a license.

After installing the program on your computer, you can file your taxes using NETFILE. It supports the Auto-fill My Return feature and Express Notice of Assessment.

StudioTax is not available on smartphones or tablets.

Some of the highlights of StudioTax are :

  • It does not need to connect to the internet to perform its main functions – your name, email, online account, or credit card details are not required.
  • It is NETFILE-certified.
  • It allows for both simple and complex returns.
  • Up to 20 returns per year.
  • No income restrictions.
  • Available in Quebec. 

Filing Your Taxes Return Online

A majority of Canadians can generally file their tax returns electronically. Some instances where a NETFILE submission is restricted are if you:

  • Are filing a tax return for a taxation year before 2015
  • Are a non-resident of Canada and/or your address is outside of Canada
  • Became bankrupt within the two years before your tax filing
  • Are filing a tax return for a deceased person
  • Need to change your name
  • Are filing an amended return
  • Your social insurance number begins with 08 or 09

You can check out other NETFILE restrictions here.

Related Posts:

Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Online Using a Tax Software

The benefits of filing your taxes online as opposed to completing the paper forms and mailing to CRA are:

A. Faster Refunds: Electronic submissions result in faster refunds…often in as few as 8 business days.

B. User-friendly: Online tax software are generally user-friendly and they guide you through the process so you don’t need to be a tax expert to file your own return. They also keep your previous tax returns on file for several years, making it easy to retrieve them if needed.

C. Cheaper: Compared to the cost of an accountant helping you out, online tax software can be free or much cheaper.

D. Improved Accuracy: NETFILE-certified tax software can use the Auto-fill My Return service which automatically fills part of your tax return. Combine this with the “accuracy guarantee” and automatic calculations provided by the software, and your chances of submitting an accurate return increases.

If you plan to file your taxes electronically, ensure that the tax software is:

  • Certified by the CRA
  • Has adequate security in place to protect your personal information
  • Easy to use and compatible with your devices
  • Affordable or free

For the 2021 tax-filing season (2020 income tax year), we recommend going with TurboTax. For a pay-what-you-want option, you can also try Wealthsimple Tax or H&R Block.

Best Free Tax Return Software For Canadians (2021)
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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a personal finance expert and a veterinarian. He has a master’s degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School (Scotland) and has completed several courses and certificates in finance, including the Canadian Securities Course. He also has an MSc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan. Enoch has a passion for helping others win with their personal finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. His writing has been featured or quoted in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, MSN Money, Financial Post, Winnipeg Free Press, CPA Canada, Credit Canada, Wealthsimple, and many other personal finance publications.

His top investment tools include Wealthsimple and Questrade. He earns cash back on purchases using KOHO and monitors his credit score for free using Borrowell.

22 thoughts on “Best Free Tax Return Software For Canadians (2021)”

  1. Have been using Genutax for many years, and I am very happy with this program.
    It’s an “offline” (installed) software, so I don’t expose my private information to anybody.

    Reply
    • I tried GenuTax and thought it was very good.
      I also tried StudioTax, but found GenuTax to be more user friendly and pleasant to use.
      Surprised it isn’t talk about more often (considering it’s free).

      Reply
    • I have been using GenuTax since 2003 when it was a onetime fee of $32 now it’s free. I love it and recommend it to everyone. I’ve done many individual and joint tax returns as well as final returns for deceased individuals all without difficulty. Northern living benefits and capital gains are simple. When you start a new year, your personal information is brought forward form the previous year, a big time saver. If you are setup with revenue Canada the software can auto load your information slips, great feature.
      I can not comment on their support as I have never needed it.
      I recommend GenuTax without reservation.

      Reply
  2. I’m in a fix. I’ve never filed my own taxes. Ever. Always had an accountant do it. 2019 hasn’t been filed yet. I’m self employed freelancer. But I suddenly found out that my accountant passed away last month.. Now am in a lurch as I want to apply for the CERB but am told that I have to file my 2019 taxes first. Any suggestion as to how to go about it and which software service to use?

    Reply
    • You have a few options. TurboTax is very, very easy to use, and I would recommend it. If you do not want to pay for it, there’s the online version, which might not be ideal if you prefer to keep your personal data as safe as possible (they’re not immune to hackers, after all). I’ve been looking around and StudioTax seems to be the best offline free software. I’m trying that one this year.
      As for your freelancer situation, I cannot help you with that, since I work full-time.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
    • I will try to answer your questions and file your tax.
      But we need to talk about this first, if interested. My phone # 416 834 4145, Sunny.

      Reply
    • I have used both Ufile and Studio Tax software and found that they both do a great job. However, I found Ufile to be more user friendly. Best of luck. Stay safe.

      Reply
  3. I used StudioTax, I was asked to use my account for auto file but I did not succeeded. Some can tell what mistake I may have made?

    Reply
  4. If you’re thinking about using AdvTax, I’d think again. I’ve used it for years, and have recently learned that it has consistently miscalculated my RRSP contribution room. Year after year, I missed the opportunity to make the full RRSP contribution I was entitled to, and subsequently paid thousands more in taxes than I should have. There’s no way to recover any of that loss.

    Reply
  5. However, the paid model for StudioTax only applies if your gross income is over $20,000.
    Under that and its still free. I’m a senior on a fixed, so I clear that and still use STx.

    Reply
    • I just checked StudioTax’s website (Feb. 20, 2021) and it says:

      StudioTax 2020 is now certified by both CRA and Revenue Quebec. The certified update will be available late Sunday and before the start of filing on Monday morning. CRA and Revenue Quebec start accepting 2020 returns Monday Feb 22.

      Reply
  6. Great list. Moving from Studiotax to some other free software. I don’t like people suddenly pulling the carpet from underneath you.

    Reply
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