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OMG Giveaway Time: Turbotax

Given the RRSP season is actually here, but to take full advantage of this, you need your tools to figure out whether buying RRSPs now is a good thing. Our friends at Intuit even offer a Free RRSP calculator on-line as well.

Did I say Giveaway? Yes, I did, all you need to do is comment on this exact article in the format of:

I want online Turbotax for free because….

That is it. Last year, I gave away the software and only got two applicants, so you have a darn good chance if you just leave a correctly formatted comment (and you must leave your e-mail address with the comment too, so I can send you the activation code).

I have five Turbotax Online activation codes that have been made available to me by my friends at Intuit, so go ahead and comment, what have you got to lose?

I will also be reviewing Turbotax in the next few weeks (again, I usually use this tool, so unless they have started using Elbonian programmers, I think I can  guess how the review might go).

Time to get those taxes in order folks, and you can do it for free! Winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day February 14th 2012.

 

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On Line Financial Services

Overview

Financial services like Quicken, Turbotax and Mint have  broaden their customer bases and are offering their financial services on line (i.e. you don’t buy the software, download or install it from a CD onto your PC, you just run it inside of your favorite (supported) browser)). From what I can tell, these on line versions have pretty much the exact same tools and functionality as the versions that folks buy and put on their PC, which is a point in their favour.

Let’s run down some of the advantages and disadvantages of these tools.

Advantages:

  • Exact same functionality, and many times newer features are added sooner and you are not constantly updating the software with new updates from the manufacturer. The software simply runs (usually inside of your browser)
  • You can access your records from anywhere, not just your PC at home. You can look at your finances at work, or if you need to while you are on vacation.
  • If your PC crashes, you don’t lose your data, and you can simply access it from another computer. Under this same point, your data is backed up by the financial service provider as well (so it is safe, because the backups are not in your house).
  • The service provider is now the one having to protect your information from Hackers, Malware, Viruses and other nefarious folk.

Disadvantages:

  • If your internet connection is dead, you don’t have access to your records any more. This doesn’t happen very often, but it can happen at the most inoportune times.
  • On some of the services (like Mint) you are putting all your on line banking information into the tool (including your passwords), so it can automatically update your financial data on line. You may want to check with your Bank or Credit Card company because their rules may prohibit you from giving this information out (or they may not protect you if your account gets hacked).
  • All of your financial data is no longer under your lock and key (metaphorically) it is now in someone else’s house on their server.
  • You are accessing all this information across a network connection, not just on your local PC (which can also be insecure), but all the way along the network there can be interlopers trying to steal your data (encrypted data hopefully).
RRSP, RESP, RDSP, Mastercard

Internet Cafe an Insecure Place

As you can tell from my posts this week (Financial On Line Security especially) , I am really not comfortable with my information being available on line, and putting all my banking information into these services really makes me nervous. Accessing this data over any kind of network makes me twitchy as well, but even if you do choose to use these services remember never to access the accounts via:

  1. Internet Cafe or untrusted PC’s, those things are always teaming with viruses and keyloggers to steal your vital financial information
  2. Public wireless access that does not use any kind of encryption (like say Starbucks or other restaurants)
  3. If you use any kind of shared PC at work make sure your Browser history queue and password cache is FLUSHED when you log off.

This is very important (and I am pretty sure the On Line Financial Service folks would agree with me on that).

My Opinion

As you could guess, my opinion is to not recommend using  the on line versions of these financial tools.  The tools themselves seem great, but my inherant mistrust of computer networks and knowing of all the Blue Meanies out there trying to steal your information, I just don’t feel comfortable putting this information in an easy to find single place. If the service site gets hacked (much like Epsilon was), suddenly hundreds of thousands of folks banking info is compromised, so where do you think the hackers will be concentrating their attacks?

Please don’t take this as me saying these tools are bad, or that you should not use them, but if you do, you should keep in mind the points that I have brought up, and read over (closely) the agreement you “sign” with the Financial Service Provider and read over their Security Rules.

Do use Financial tools like Turbotax, Quicken, Mint or the like, they are important to helping you get your finances under control.

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You Can Call the CRA for Tax Questions

During trying times this is a little harder, especially during tax time or during the Pandemic of 2020, but the CRA will try to answer your tax questions if you get through. CRA Tax questions can be quite simple, but at times they can be complicated as well.

It just might take a while, but be patient.

Lots of folks are calling the CRA right now for many reasons, and I still have a few questions I’d like to clarify before I file my family taxes. It is important to be sure you are taking the correct deductions and credits, before you file, so it is not a sign of weakness or feeble mindedness if you call the CRA (don’t be proud).

My patient comment comes from the fact that I called 4 times and got a busy signal (which is really bad form in the Help Line business, but we’ll forgive them that), I got through on my 5th call and then only had to wait 8 minutes until  I actually spoke to someone (I was expecting a much longer wait).

Have One Question

I have found that if you call the CRA or other help lines, you really should have 1 well thought out question. If you have many questions, maybe you should call a few times? I don’t know, but as soon as I ask more than 1 question I find the system seems to bog down or break, so I keep it to a single carefully worded question.

My question was about the fact that my daughter is attending an out of province University (we are in Ontario she is going to school in Nova Scotia), and the tax form  (and the Turbotax help page) says that the tuition may or may not be dealt with in a different way, so you should call the CRA help line, hence why I called.

Out of Province Tuition

My question was not too hard, and because the University she attends is an accredited institution,(but the answer is not written down anywhere, you need to call to make sure the school is OK with the CRA) so she can claim her tuition, and thus transfer a portion of it to me.

The young lady I spoke to was very helpful, and gave me the web page that she looked at and such, and she asked me if I had any more questions, and I answered NO. This does not mean I don’t have other questions, I am only going to ask one question this time, but I may call back.

All in all an OK experience this time, however, I am not sure how my future experiences will go.

Anybody else have any experiences with the CRA helpline?

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