A vital component of successful financial planning is the ability of any individual to track, determine and report their financial information over a period of time. I use a number of extensive excel spreadsheets to track my investments and expenses to better understand how my financial success is improving over various periods of time and when it comes to tax time that preparation pays off to have information organized in a few key places to prepare my annual tax return.
Taxes bring along a lot of anxiety for many Canadians each year especially when you consider the complexities and differences everyone has in tracking, determining and reporting their returns each year. Each individual has different income considerations, exemptions, investments and/or dependants to consider and with new government incentive programs for income splitting, home renovations, education and retirement savings tax time can be a very difficult part of the year for many Canadians.
Accountants and tax professionals are great resources for helping you to determine your tax return or liability but many Canadians still choose or prefer to do their own taxes and seek the best method of doing so for both their time and money.
I’ve always completed my own tax returns since being old enough to file a return and over the last two years I’ve decided to use the online version of QuickTax as my tax software of choice. The reasons for this were/are fairly simple: QuickTax is easy to use, it simplifies my deductions and impact of investment income, allows me to see my tax return developing and has the best resources available to help me ensure my return is accurate, complete and maximized.
This year Intuit Canada has been kind enough to supply me with a complimentary version of their QuickTax Platinum 2009 for review and two copies of their best selling QuickTax Standard 2009 to give away to two readers of this website.
QuickTax Platinum 2009
Last year was my first time using the QuickTax Platinum Online Edition and found the process quick, simple and straightforward. Each online edition of Intuit’s QuickTax allows you to complete a single return and with Claire still completing her post secondary education I’m only required to pay for one return since the QuickTax Online Student version is free.
This year I was excited to use my supplied copy of QuickTax Platinum 2009 because of a few key financial developments in my life over the last year:
- I bought my first home and plan to put to use both the HRTC (Home Renovation Tax Credit) and HBTC (First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit)
- I used savings in my RSP to make a withdrawal and take advantage of the HBP (Home Buyers’ Plan)
- Potentially transfer unused tuition credits from Claire to myself to determine if I can maximize this year’s tax return
The Online Edition of QuickTax Platinum 2009 allows for 1 return for $29.99 with the CD/Download Edition allowing up to a total of 8 returns for $69.99. Comparing the differences between all versions can be seen easily on Intuit’s website between CD/Download editions and online editions with their CD/Download Comparison Chart and Online Comparison Chart.
The big difference for most consumers will be choosing between QuickTax Standard and QuickTax Platinum. The Platinum Edition provides tax tips for investment sales of stocks, bonds, mutual funds or employee stock plans as well as help for rental property income, expenses and refinancing. The Platinum Edition should be your default choice if you have difficulty determining capital gains/losses of your investment portfolio.
With the volatility of the stock market during 2008 and 2009 many investors will have capital losses to carry forward, consider or to apply to previous capital gains over the past three years.
QuickTax Platinum comes with two key features called the Stock Trade Tracker and Capital Gains Analyzer. I personally use a group of integrated excel spreadsheets to track my portfolio activity and returns, but if you’re an investor who has difficulty tracking your investment portfolio the Stock Trade Tracker allows you to track your investment activity over the past year to record what gains or losses were made in your portfolio. The Capital Gains Analyzer is a useful tool if you’re trying to understand the impact on your taxes for 2009. This tool will let you compare different investments to see which type benefits you more depending on your marginal tax rate (MTR).
QuickTax Platinum 2009 also gives you access to the RRSP Wizard which I found to be a very useful tool in completing my fathers’ tax return this year. This tool allows you to enter different RRSP contribution amounts to see the impact on your refund for the past tax year. For an individual who chooses to make a lump sum contribution before the RRSP deadline this tool can have considerable value in visualizing what different amounts contributed can do to the outcome of your return. QuickTax Platinum also provides the Pension Income Splitting Optimizer for retired couples that allow them to see the impact of income splitting on their collective returns.
There are three main components of QuickTax that I find useful versus filling out the traditional paper tax return.
The first is QuickTax’s introduction that asks questions on income and deductions that help you to identify what changed in your past tax year, what affects your return for 2009 and what could affect your return that you might have forgotten or overlooked. More than once in the past few years, and this year as well, I forgot to include key information or deductions that made a moderate improvement in my tax return. Logging medical expenses, source of income or charitable donations is easy to enter and review.
The QuickTax Support Centre offers users help options via email, chat or phone that I find invaluable to completing my tax return. There are a host of tax related websites for Canadians to use and access but direct questions are easy to find and information on what qualifies you for certain deductions is laid out in a logical and organized fashion.
Online security is also a very important component of choosing any tax software. QuickTax allows you to save your return in a printable PDF and filing online is easy, simple and safe. Keeping past returns on your computer to upload into new returns is also an easy way to carry forward unused tuition credits or expenses that weren’t used up on your past tax return.
QuickTax Platinum 2009 is a comprehensive tax preparation tool that was vital in helping me determine my tax return for 2009 as well as the returns of my immediate family. I highly recommend readers consider using this useful tax software, in any form, if you enjoy managing your own finances and want a better understanding of how your annual tax return unfolds.
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- One entry per contestant
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- Deadline for all entries will be 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday February 28th, 2010. I will randomly draw two winners from the contest and announce them in a post on Monday March 1st, 2010.