Canadian Tax Software

By: Walter Metcalf
Date: 03/28/01

Tax time, like the annual 'flu season, has arrived once again. However, unlike the 'flu, we can do more than get our shot, and then simply wait and hope. Taking advantage of the speed of modern personal computers, there are a number of excellent tax software packages, which are easy to use, accurate, and make sure you get every deduction to which you are entitled. In fact, the new breed of software allow you to file your tax return right after you've prepared it without ever leaving your computer! This process is called NETFILE'ing, and I'll elaborate on it later.

Because I am a Canadian, I am only familiar with the Canadian Income Tax system, so I've only examined Canadian Tax software in this article. Testing Canadian software has also given me the advantage of actually filing some returns (or trying to), using these software packages, something I would find difficult to do using U.S. Tax Software, for example.

Unfortunately the Canadian OS/2 user is at a considerable disadvantage. Every single tax program, save one, requires Windows in order to run. That one-- GriffTax--is a MacIntosh program, and Gates owns a sizable portion of Apple. However, the facts that really grated on me, and showed further evidence of Gates' control were the two browser tax programs I tried. First, let me point out that Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) does have a browser test, but all it tests for is 128-bit encryption, and Netscape for OS/2 v4.61 passes with flying colours. However the file-by-browser style "programs" either rejected the latest Netscape version for OS/2 v.4.61 without comment (U-File), or require that you download Windows versions of other programs such as Acrobat and QuickTime (QuickTax Web). There are OS/2 versions of Acrobat and QuickTime. In fact to play videos, the user could use several programs, including RealPlayer, which runs under Odin. This requirement of additional Windows programs, and arbitrarily rejecting all but certain versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape is designed for nothing but to give Microsoft control over how we file our taxes. Fortunately, as we shall see, there is still one tax software manufacturer that has not completely bent the knee to Bill Gates. In addition Odin continues to make progress; perhaps next year it will run one of the other products.

Finally, one more thing before we compare the various products. This year, for the first time CCRA, formerly Revenue Canada, has opened its NETFILE program to everyone. However there are a few restrictions. Some returns are ineligible for NETFILE'ing. To find out if you are eligible, check this list. Essentially, this program is both an extension and a restriction to the EFILE system, which allows eligible professional tax preparers to transmit tax returns for their clients to the government over the Internet. NETFILE differs from EFILE in that 1) in principle, every taxpayer is eligible to NETFILE. No special registration is required; and 2) an individual can only NETFILE his own return.

Canadian Tax Software from the OS/2 User's Perspective
Notes: CanTax CoolTax QuickTax TaxWiz U-File
Version Tested T1Plus CoolTax QuickTax TaxWiz UFile
Publisher CCH Ltd. FLS Research Intuit Taxmatic Dr. Tax
NETFILE certified? yes yes yes yes yes
Base price (for
where available)
$795 $10 $24.95 24.95 $12.95
DOS compatible? no no no no no
WinOS2 compatible? no no yes; however
required update
was not
yes no
OS/2 compatible
(using Odin)?
no (install failed) no (Active X is
required, which
is not yet sup-
ported by Odin)
no (installer
wouldn't start)
N.A. no - U-File
is a browser
product and
didn't accept
the latest
version of
OS/2 4.61
Support Options Web; newsletter;
CanTax agents,
some of whom
have toll-free
web site, incl. FAQ;
web site, phone
(I've had several
reports of very
long waits)
web site FAQ;
telephone (my
only reader said
there was no
delay); email
2,3 day wait
Special Features 1)Built-in Links to
CCH Reference
ultimate in
professional tax
reference material.
"Family Coupling"
feature prepares
returns for a
family simulta-
neously, optimizing
deductions on-the-
Taxmatic is
committed to
keeping TaxWiz
Win 3.1
compatible, at
least through


  1. Since TaxWiz will be available for Windows 3.1, and therefore will probably run under WinOS2, next year, it is very likely I will use that product to do my family's 2001 taxes.

  2. However, CoolTax is a strong runner-up, and if TaxWiz is not available for OS/2 after all, or if Odin is improved to the point where it will properly run CoolTax, then I will look very hard at that as option. Here's why:

    1. Price, although $15 is not a big deal;

    2. CoolTax is really just TaxByte in a different suit of clothes. TaxByte is a full-blown professional preparer software package that has been in existence for 13 years and is used annually by thousands of preparers. Consequently, CoolTax is more sophisticated and is less likely to have errors in the tax engine than the versions that exist only in a "lite" form.

  3. No browser-based products except U-File were tested.

  4. The QuickTax CD does contain a Windows 3.1, WinOS2 compatible, version of the product. However there is no Windows 3.1-compatible of the update required both to incorporate last fall's budget, and to enable NETFILE'ing. Moreover, the output of Windows 3.1 QuickTax product cannot be used as input by the 32-bit version of the product.

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Walter Metcalf

For Further Reading:

QuickTax Basic Tax Year 2000
From OS/2 e-Zine by Robert Basler Unfortunately, as mentioned in the COMMENTS, Intuit let the product die for OS/2 users by failing to provide a Windows 3.1 version of the update.

Tax Solutions for U.S. OS/2 Users
From OS/2 e-Zine by Mark Dodel Mark reviews two U.S. tax products.

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