Does anyone (besides, maybe, accountants) enjoy filing their taxes? Among Canadians who are brave enough to tackle their own returns, tax-filing software is a go-to, with TurboTax claiming number-one status. But the brand has spurred multiple rivals, many of which now offer comparable features for a lower price or for free. (TurboTax has responded with its own free online tax-return platform, as have other major players in the industry, such as H&R Block.)
A noteworthy competitor is being marketed by Wealthsimple, the Canadian online investment company whose Wealthsimple Trade online brokerage platform we have reviewed. They recently introduced Wealthsimple Tax, the rebranding of software launched originally in 2012 as Simple Tax, then purchased by Wealthsimple in 2019. It’s an all-in-one tax preparation and filing platform that costs whatever you think is a fair price—even if that price is nothing.
A free service from a company with a $5-billion (with a “b”) market cap—can it really be as good as they claim? We wondered as well, so we set out to learn how Wealthsimple Tax compares with popular long-standing tax-prep software.
How does Wealthsimple Tax work?
Getting started is simple, and you don’t have to be an existing Wealthsimple client to qualify for the free access. First, verify your email address. Then, you enter your personal information (name, address, social insurance number, date of birth), just as you would on any tax-filing form. You also have the option of entering the NETFILE access code from your tax return of the previous year. While this isn’t mandatory, if you don’t include the code you won’t be able to use any information from your previous year’s return to confirm your identity with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If you used SimpleTax in the past, you can import information from a previous year’s return to simplify your 2020 tax prep.
You’re then asked some general questions about your residence, your marital status and/or dependants, and a few other basic things. If you have a CRA My Account, you have the option of signing up to receive email correspondence about the status of your return directly from the CRA.
Once the setup is completed, the platform guides you through each step of building your return. If you need human help at any point, Wealthsimple has its own support staff available.
Upon completion of your return, your refund (or amount owing) is displayed instantly. You have the option of reviewing your return for errors, or to try to optimize your result. You can also save or print your return as a PDF.
Is Wealthsimple Tax only for basic personal returns?
No. Wealthsimple Tax is capable of processing even complex returns, so long as they aren’t subject to any NETFILE restrictions.
What does “Your maximum refund, guaranteed” mean?
Paying to use Wealthsimple Tax is entirely voluntary. But if you do choose to pay, and another tax preparer (whether that’s a different online platform or a real-life accountant) calculates a better return, Wealthsimple will refund what you paid. While that’s a reassuring testament to the platform’s belief in its own efficacy, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll file your tax return with more than one preparer. In short, this isn’t a high-stakes guarantee.
How does Wealthsimple Tax compare with other online tax-preparation platforms?
It’s no exaggeration to state there are a lot of tax-prep options out there, even when you automatically discount the ones that lack encouraging user reviews.
TurboTax now offers its own free online version; however, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid version if your return has certain requirements, such as if you want to transfer information from a prior year’s return. H&R Block—possibly the world’s best-known name among professional tax preparers—also has a free platform. But, as with TurboTax, you’ll have to step up to the paid version if you want to transfer last year’s data (and audit protection costs significantly more than with Wealthsimple).
Compared with these high-profile competitors, Wealthsimple Tax appears to offer the largest suite of features and the most intuitive interface. And, unlike many other free platforms we examined, Wealthsimple Tax is fully bilingual for French-language users. (Additional note: Not all tax-prep platforms are designed for mobile use, so be sure to check in advance if you plan to use your phone to build and file your return.)
Is Wealthsimple Tax genuinely free to use?
It is. Once your return is completed, you do have the option of supporting the platform with a payment of any amount—a donation, if you will. If you choose a payment of $0.00, you won’t be penalized in any way and your return will still be filed.
You also have the option of “upgrading” your return for a fee of $30. That entitles you to priority email responses from Wealthsimple’s support team. And if the CRA elects to audit your return, Wealthsimple provides support to guide you through the process. (Many accountants offer this service as well, for a significantly higher price.)
Is Wealthsimple Tax trustworthy?
Yes. The platform is certified by both the CRA and Revenu Québec. Plus, Wealthsimple is a Canadian-owned, award-winning company whose online tools have been used millions of times. Wealthsimple’s primary owner, Power Corporation of Canada, is a more than 100-year-old institution with over $450 billion in assets and 30,000 employees.
MORE ABOUT TAXES:
- The MoneySense guide to personal income tax
- Understanding income attribution and how to deal with it at tax time
- Is life insurance taxable in Canada?
- Separation and divorce: How do we split up our investments?
- Tax implications of building a laneway suite