It’s that time of year again, that time when we get to continue to ensure that we’re doing our part to help pay for the cost of everything our country needs to fight World War 1, even though it’s long been over. A lot has changed in the 102 years since income tax was federally mandated in Canada; our government has become ever increasingly bloated and inefficient, and income tax has become so complicated, regular people often need someone trained in this field to do it for them. One year around a decade ago, I had a professional, Katrina Morin and Associates, do it for me, and they made a mistake that cost me $25 in interest to the government that I would not have had to pay if my return was done correctly on the first attempt, and Katrina told me herself that she would not refund me this interest charge, even though I paid her many times more than that. Instead of fighting her for the money, I decided to leave her a one star review. I have since realized that all these so-called professionals do is plug numbers into the same computer software anyone can get for free (simple data entry clerk level work), and a lot of them don’t really care if they do that good of a job of even that simple task, so garbage in = garbage out. Since then, I have always vowed to do my and my wife’s income tax myself.
I have since become generally opposed to the idea of paying money for a person or software to complete my income tax return; it’s an additional burden that hard-working taxpayers should not have to endure. I find it amazing that people get excited when they get a return, considering the only reason they would get a return is because they over-paid the government in the first place, effectively giving our government an interest-free loan, although it’s probably better than leaving it in a bank because at least they won’t charge you for taking your money…yet. The expense of software or a person to assist us with our taxes should be shouldered by the government who take so much money from our income in the first place. At the very least, the cost of such software or services should be a 100% write-off. However, our government needs to waste our money elsewhere to keep their budgets on creating waste as high as possible (more on that in a future blog post), and so we are left with our current state of corruption. Fortunately, there are free and pay-what-you-want models that exist.
My favourite program for doing income taxes over the past few years has been StudioTax. Unfortunately, it is Windows or Mac only. This seems unusual to me, as their license to use the software seems to be more in-line with the ideals of open source software: It’s free to use with no strings attached, no registration or license key required, and no coercion to upgrade or pay for other services. I tried to install it using WINE, and while it installed and launched correctly, it ground to a halt after attempting to enter some information.
I decided to shoot an e-mail to the StudioTax support team to ask them about Linux support. This was their reply:
Hi, Sorry, not an easy port to make and, most importantly, a costly yearly maintenance/certification. It just not enough demands out there to justify the effort…mobile devices(iOS and Android) are more urgent priority going forward. Thank you for using StudioTax! Warmest Regards, StudioTax Support Team
I was disappointed to learn that there’s a cost associated with getting software certified with our government (again, what are they wasting all that tax money on, as if I didn’t know), but I was happy to see that they are working on Android support. Android is an open source operating system, and there is work being done now to get Android apps to run in Linux. All of this means that it’s just a matter of time.
But, what about now? I could order a paper copy and do my taxes that way, but that’s going to be time-consuming and seems foolish when I have a powerful computer that can help me do it error-free. I could boot into Windows for that one task, but I prefer to stay on the Linux desktop. Option three is to use one of the free on-line services for me to do my taxes this year. I decided to go for the web-based service SimpleTax. They claim to use encryption, so if you forget your password, there’s no way for anyone to reset it. They have a clean, ad-free interface that I prefer. The way I see it, I e-File my return to government run servers anyway and who knows who’s looking after that (outsourced to the lowest bidder or to someone’s good friend or family member), and I have no reason to assume the people at SimpleTax are going to be worse than our government.
What about you? I’d love to see my reader’s opinions on this topic.