Personal Finance

Do you do your taxes yourself?

  • Last Updated:
  • Mar 23rd, 2017 2:39 pm
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Sr. Member
Jan 5, 2015
574 posts
131 upvotes
Edmonton, AB
I've used Studio Tax, no complaints.
Will be using them again for 2016.
Deal Addict
Dec 6, 2006
3553 posts
608 upvotes
Toronto
nmclean wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 10:26 am
In response to this, I'll quote an excerpt from "A Mathematician's Lament" by Paul Lockhart:



I completely agree that it's unfair to cherry-pick someone who is eager to learn with paper, versus someone who is not with software, or vice versa. In fact, that is exactly the point I made to don242, because that's what he did. Me? I wasn't comparing individuals at all. I was comparing educational tools. Your statement, "There's really no difference, doing on paper or on software," is what I disagree with. The tool matters.

If you take that same person who "will actually try to understand how to calculation works and read the instructions" and put him in front of an electronic system instead of a stack of paper, he will still do that, but better. Further, if you take the "mindless" person and give them something more user-friendly and engaging, sometimes they may begin to care, explore, and understand. On the other hand, if you move the mindless software users backwards, they will only resent it even more.
Not so much in *this* case... filing tax. Both paper and electronic versions are quite similar aside from having to type on a calculator or not, *IF* you want to go through all the details. Reading the explanation on a paper booklet vs a webpage is no different. Plus what I said about the software auto calculate/fill a bunch of fields downstream. For example, you simply follow the instruction to fill in this box in the tax software for RRSP contribution made in one page... then magically you see there's more tax refund in another page. The software doesn't really show you how that comes about at all. But doing it on paper, you have to manually carry over and calculate that RRSP contribution forward and you'll know how that is factored in.


I had to filed a few years of tax on paper... not that I wanted to, but I had to (Since I didn't file tax for a few years in university, and I did all in 1 go). So for better or worse I got quite comfortable with at least the basic tax stuffs on paper but of course I use tax software now myself. Couple years ago I let my brother-in-law, accountant-in-training, to do our family tax file, using whatever software he's using. He finished all, printed out to me. I took a look for a min and knew something was wrong. And sure it was after he went double-check what he did in the software, he mis-entered some carry-over amount or something. Yeah I know, just a 1 off example, but anyway.
Deal Addict
Nov 25, 2014
1184 posts
462 upvotes
Newton Brook, ON
boyohboy wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 12:34 pm
Not so much in *this* case... filing tax. Both paper and electronic versions are quite similar aside from having to type on a calculator or not, *IF* you want to go through all the details. Reading the explanation on a paper booklet vs a webpage is no different. Plus what I said about the software auto calculate/fill a bunch of fields downstream. For example, you simply follow the instruction to fill in this box in the tax software for RRSP contribution made in one page... then magically you see there's more tax refund in another page. The software doesn't really show you how that comes about at all. But doing it on paper, you have to manually carry over and calculate that RRSP contribution forward and you'll know how that is factored in.
:facepalm: The notion that you are "shown less" on software than paper is clearly indefensible, given the fact that the software shows you the paper. As a bonus, it also presents the same information in various user-friendly ways and gives much faster, contextual access to documentation. You're speaking as if the final refund is the only thing you are shown. Absolutely not so.

Filling out tax forms "manually" is still a mindless paint-by-numbers exercise. The assumption that doing this will somehow create understanding that wasn't already present is flawed. No matter which tool is used, it requires extra effort to actually understand it - understanding is not inherent in the task. The point is, that effort to understand is significantly less when using software.

boyohboy wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 12:34 pm
I had to filed a few years of tax on paper... not that I wanted to, but I had to (Since I didn't file tax for a few years in university, and I did all in 1 go). So for better or worse I got quite comfortable with at least the basic tax stuffs on paper but of course I use tax software now myself. Couple years ago I let my brother-in-law, accountant-in-training, to do our family tax file, using whatever software he's using. He finished all, printed out to me. I took a look for a min and knew something was wrong. And sure it was after he went double-check what he did in the software, he mis-entered some carry-over amount or something. Yeah I know, just a 1 off example, but anyway.
Sorry, but what is the moral of this story? That computers allow you to mistype? Are you implying that he would have been less likely to mis-enter this amount with a pencil? Do you need me to cite statistics showing how untrue that is?
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Nov 19, 2004
7120 posts
896 upvotes
Cambridge, ON
nmclean wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 1:38 pm
:facepalm: The notion that you are "shown less" on software than paper is clearly indefensible, given the fact that the software shows you the paper. As a bonus, it also presents the same information in various user-friendly ways and gives much faster, contextual access to documentation. You're speaking as if the final refund is the only thing you are shown. Absolutely not so.

Filling out tax forms "manually" is still a mindless paint-by-numbers exercise. The assumption that doing this will somehow create understanding that wasn't already present is flawed. No matter which tool is used, it requires extra effort to actually understand it - understanding is not inherent in the task. The point is, that effort to understand is significantly less when using software.
Again, both have their advantages. But I still think running through the calculations on paper force you to understand better. When you do a paper return, you need to refer to the guide which explains the step. You need to carry your numbers to an appropriate column based on your income ( which would hopefully trigger someone to see how the columns are set up). You see what a tax credit is vs a deduction. You see why you are or are not eligible for tax credits. You read the forms as you go.

Software is good at directing you with questions. You also can quickly input different numbers to see the impact. But change one number from 1000 to 2000 and you get a different refund. What does that tell you? Was it a tax credit that made the difference? Was it a deductible? Was it a combination? The questions are great in that you can see the impact related to the question but there is little comprehension behind it.

Both manual and software will illustrate the information. And people can blindly go through both. I just think the manual method forces you to read the guide and the forms. After that, the software is great for ease of use.
Deal Addict
Nov 25, 2014
1184 posts
462 upvotes
Newton Brook, ON
don242 wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 2:32 pm
Again, both have their advantages. But I still think running through the calculations on paper force you to understand better. When you do a paper return, you need to refer to the guide which explains the step. You need to carry your numbers to an appropriate column based on your income ( which would hopefully trigger someone to see how the columns are set up). You see what a tax credit is vs a deduction. You see why you are or are not eligible for tax credits. You read the forms as you go.

Software is good at directing you with questions. You also can quickly input different numbers to see the impact. But change one number from 1000 to 2000 and you get a different refund. What does that tell you? Was it a tax credit that made the difference? Was it a deductible? Was it a combination? The questions are great in that you can see the impact related to the question but there is little comprehension behind it.

Both manual and software will illustrate the information. And people can blindly go through both. I just think the manual method forces you to read the guide and the forms. After that, the software is great for ease of use.
Now you're implying that paper is a better teaching tool by virtue of "forcing" understanding on people. Again, this is backwards thinking reminiscent of failing school curriculum. The fact that you "need" to refer to a guide to answer a question is a testiment to the failure of the question's straightforwardness, not an example of quality educational material. And the columns? Really? I'm sorry, but "If line N is greater than X but less than Y, subtract X and multiply by A and subtract B" is just about the most unintuitive way imaginable to teach someone about tax brackets.
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User avatar
Nov 19, 2004
7120 posts
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Cambridge, ON
nmclean wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 3:05 pm
Now you're implying that paper is a better teaching tool by virtue of "forcing" understanding on people. Again, this is backwards thinking reminiscent of failing school curriculum. The fact that you "need" to refer to a guide to answer a question is a testiment to the failure of the question's straightforwardness, not an example of quality educational material. And the columns? Really? I'm sorry, but "If line N is greater than X but less than Y, subtract X and multiply by A and subtract B" is just about the most unintuitive way imaginable to teach someone about tax brackets.
So tell me how the software teaches you about the tax brackets? None of the software I have used explains it. Maybe I just haven't tried the ones that explain it all. Any software I have used just basically ask what the boxes on the T4 slip say, how much is my rrsp deductions, etc. and out comes an answer. Heck, if you file with a spouse, you just hit optimize and it moves a few things around if you are lucky to better optimize the return.

Anyway, it matters not. Those who want to figure it out, will. Those that don't want to, won't.
Deal Addict
Nov 25, 2014
1184 posts
462 upvotes
Newton Brook, ON
don242 wrote:
Mar 15th, 2017 5:11 pm
So tell me how the software teaches you about the tax brackets? None of the software I have used explains it. Maybe I just haven't tried the ones that explain it all. Any software I have used just basically ask what the boxes on the T4 slip say, how much is my rrsp deductions, etc. and out comes an answer. Heck, if you file with a spouse, you just hit optimize and it moves a few things around if you are lucky to better optimize the return.

Anyway, it matters not. Those who want to figure it out, will. Those that don't want to, won't.
If you're trying to demonstrate how the forms and guide do a better job of teaching, you've picked a very poor example. Tell me, how did you learn about tax brackets? Was it that convoluted formula alone? Probably not. Did the guide help you understand? Definitely not, because literally all it has to offer on that is "Complete the appropriate column depending on the amount on line 37." That's not forcing understanding, it's discouraging it. "Don't ask questions, just do the work." Conversely, most software has help pages and a search feature built in. Some even display the effective tax rate, which certainly paints a clearer picture.

I'm not saying one can't understand from the form and official guide, I'm saying that someone relying only on these sources is at a disadvantage. It is designed for human computers, not teaching. In fact, I would go as far as to say the unintuitive presentation of step 2 of Schedule 1 is part of the reason so many people fail to understand the progressive tax system in the first place.
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User avatar
Dec 24, 2002
4532 posts
342 upvotes
Used turbotax for first time last year - ez pz. All done in front of a computer - time spent approx 15 mins , cost approx $40 ( i have a business on the side) ...vs going to accountant as i did previously- cost $200, time to drive, sit with him and drive home (3-4 hrs) ...

No thank you very much
http://www.heatware.com/eval.php?id=14378

WENGER IN!!!!


I promise not to cut your taxes but I won't raise them either.
Member
User avatar
Oct 19, 2016
286 posts
86 upvotes
Toronto
Studiotax was confusing for me. It looks like its made for people who know are in the accounting industry.. So if you are an advanced user, you may like Studiotax..otherwise go with the alternatives.
Sr. Member
Jul 28, 2012
806 posts
232 upvotes
Montreal
mrtrump wrote:
Mar 16th, 2017 10:03 am
Studiotax was confusing for me. It looks like its made for people who know are in the accounting industry.. So if you are an advanced user, you may like Studiotax..otherwise go with the alternatives.
I agree with the first two sentences, but on the other hand, if you use the wizard, I think the process is relatively straightforward.

The wizard asks you a series of questions, gives you the opportunity to enter the amounts on your T-slips and RRSP contributions and asks if you are eligible to the most common tax credits (public transit amount, medical expenses, student loan interests...).
Newbie
Dec 5, 2016
72 posts
14 upvotes
mrtrump wrote:
Mar 16th, 2017 10:03 am
Studiotax was confusing for me. It looks like its made for people who know are in the accounting industry.. So if you are an advanced user, you may like Studiotax..otherwise go with the alternatives.
Was thinking of doing my taxes for the first time this year using studiotax. Which alternative did you end up switching to?
Member
User avatar
Oct 19, 2016
286 posts
86 upvotes
Toronto
simpletax worked great for me.. Will try it again.

H&R has an online free filing as well but is inferior to simpletax.



alucky17 wrote:
Mar 16th, 2017 11:01 am
Was thinking of doing my taxes for the first time this year using studiotax. Which alternative did you end up switching to?
Newbie
Mar 14, 2017
36 posts
6 upvotes
I outsource my taxes, I just was never good at looking at papers with a lot of boxes and small numbers. Kind of gives me anxiety, so I rather just a pay a couple bucks and let someone else do it.

But soon I would like to do it online, I think the online platform is way easier. All the best :)
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User avatar
Dec 27, 2009
3157 posts
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Ottawa, ON
RojoRojoWine wrote:
Mar 17th, 2017 9:38 am
I outsource my taxes, I just was never good at looking at papers with a lot of boxes and small numbers. Kind of gives me anxiety, so I rather just a pay a couple bucks and let someone else do it.

But soon I would like to do it online, I think the online platform is way easier. All the best :)
Honestly, the programs are practically idiot-proof. Unless you have a really complex situation, do yourself a favour and just do your own. You will be surprised how easy they have made these things.

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