Seizing your tax power

When I filled out my first tax return (too many years ago to state thenumber in a national column!), most Canadians did their own taxes — onpaper.

When I filled out my first tax return (too many years ago to state the number in a national column!), most Canadians did their own taxes — on paper. Today, 52 per cent of us pay someone else to do the annual chore.

Every time you turn over your tax return to someone else you take a big step away from financial control. I know because I once started down that road.

With kids, a career, a marriage — there didn’t seem to be enough time; also my return had become more complicated. But with an accountant doing the job I found myself understanding less and less about what was going on with my money. On top of that I was paying other people to make mistakes.

More than half of those who pay someone to do their taxes state they don’t have the confidence or knowledge to tackle it themselves. However, today’s tax software programs are simple to use.

Starting at around $19.99 popular titles include Quick Tax, UFile, HR Block, TurboTax, Cantax and GenuTax. Most offer multiple returns and often unlimited ones for low income filers. Couples can file together and the programs optimize who should claim a host of deductions from charitable donations through to medical expenses and the transfer of tuition and disability amounts.

Even small business owners and the self-employed can complete their returns easily. For example, use of home deductions are clearly laid out in these programs. You just plug in the number of rooms or percentage floor area plus figures for expenses such as hydro.

You may still end up on the phone with Canada Revenue Agency or with the software publisher (if you’ve upgraded to phone support) for clarification — it’s income tax after all. However, if you take this step you will, as I did, achieve a sense of power over your finances. And I’m a big fan of seizing power when you can.

ALISON’S MONEY RULE

Looking for a sure fire way to save some money this tax season? Do your own return.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at alison@alisongriffiths.ca.