GriffTax Simple a Non-Taxing Solution
by Jim Bray
Over the years Ive reviewed quite a few different Canadian tax preparation
software packages. Theyve ranged from the biggies in the marketplace
to some apparently mom and pop operations.
With few exceptions, theyve all done the job of making it a lot
less painful to calculate how much of your hard earned money youre
forced to send to that sinkhole in Ottawa to have urinated away on vote
buying schemes in Quebec and the rest of the east.
Hey, I'm not cynical!
This year Im going to focus on GriffTax Simple, simply because I
havent looked at it before. Another reason is that its corporate
headquarters is in Almonte, Ontario, a lovely little bedroom community
of Ottawa that was my late mothers home town. Incidentally, thats
also the home town of that Naismith fellow who inflicted basketball on
But I digress.
GriffFax Simple starts off easily enough. I double clicked on the icon
on my Windows desktop and it leapt into action, immediately pointing out
that I was still using the original version and offering to go online and
update itself for me. So it downloaded the patch, I installed it, and fired
up the program again.
Which takes you to an opening screen where shortcuts to existing returns
are displayed or you can choose to start a new one. My wife had already
done hers (the organized dear!), so I began a new one for me. GriffTax
whisked me to a screen where I could enter my personal information, which
I did, then I clicked on the button to continue.
And it crashed. Well I assume it crashed. Either that or it decided it
didnt want to hang out with me (which is certainly not unprecedented).
When I fired it back up again, my wifes return was still listed
in the little box, but now there was one labeled null, null which
really made me feel important. So I filled in all the personal information
again; I forgot my wifes date of birth (at her request, since she
wanted me to put in 29 and I knew that would either make the
program crash again or bring the truth police down on us), but GriffTax
knew better and flagged the omission, refusing to move on until I had filled
it in properly.
See, dear, I have to do it I explained to my unimpressed better
two thirds. Entering the dates of birth is a bit of a pain, because
the software makes you scroll up and down through the choices of month,
but it works. Then I clicked on okay again, hoping against
hope that it wouldnt crash again and it didnt, so I
was apparently off to the races.
So I took advantage of the handy Save button thats prominently
located at the bottom of the Wizard-like interface to which I was returned.
But GriffTax wouldnt let me move on until everything was filled out
completely. Id forgotten to put in my choice of language (I ended
up clicking English since there was no choice for profane)
and the software had also flagged my social insurance number for correction:
Id separated the three digital sections by a hyphen and it wanted
Hey, what gives? Still a flag that Id used the wrong syntax, or
an invalid SIN or whatever. Yet I hadnt. I had correctly entered
all nine digits and Ive known my SIN by heart since I was a nipper.
Something was awry; oh, I finally figured it out: you cant enter
spaces either, just all nine digits in a row. The software adds the spaces
Why couldnt they have just said that right there instead of making
me find it in the help files?
Anyway, that was step one. Step two of the process (which begins with
an about step 2 page) is where you enter your income and deductions
(my deductions are said to be brilliant, but the government has so far
seemed unimpressed). This section uses a tabbed interface, which can be
a tad confusing because if you dont notice the tabs up top and continue
the Wizard approach operated by buttons on the bottom left of the window
you bypass it entirely.
Still, if you bother keeping your wits about you, entering the information
is straightforward enough. You simply click on the appropriate button for
the appropriate form and it springs magically to life so you can fill in
the appropriate fields. Heres where you also enter stuff like business
income, investments and the like. Its a quite simple, fortunately.
Step 3 lets you fill in any tax credits you may have to claim, while Step
4 gives you a look at the damage so far, as well as asking you the usual
questions about foreign property ownership, whether or not you want Elections
Canada to spread your name all over the bureaucracy and whether or not
youre claiming a GST credit. This is where you also promise that
all the information youve punched in is complete and true on pain
of burning in Hell.
Step 5 is payment and filing, where you can preview your return,
print it out, or file it online or by telephone if you choose to go that
By the way, GriffTax has included a Save button on each of
these sections so you can ensure you dont lose your work in progress
if something horrible like a power failure or program crash happens. Even
though I never had another crash, it's always good strategy to take advantage
Along the way there are prompts for if you forgot to include anything
(for instance, I hadnt put in any income for my wife and it verified
that I had meant to do that before it would let me continue), which is
All in all its pretty easy to use; if you have a simple return,
you can have it done faster than you can say billion dollar boondoogle. And
for twenty Canuck bucks, its pretty cheap.
The company also offers Mac-based versions for personal returns as well
as professional and corporate comptrollers versions.
The product is available as a download from the companys Web site.
The CD version also comes with supplementary info such as forms and guides.
There isnt all the value-added stuff that you get with
some competitors, such as virtual gurus to bore you to tears with their
pedantic prattle, but while many may miss this omission, I couldnt
have cared less.
And while GriffTax Simple isnt quite as user friendly as some competitors
(QuickTax, for example), its cheaper and the differences in usability
arent that onerous.
I cant say I enjoyed using the product (who would?), but it does
the job for which it was designed, and thats about all one can want.
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