CRA says this is entirely possible and acceptable to them! How so?
- CRA only tests that all the income is correctly transferred and summed - that lines 150 Total Income and line 236 Net Income are correct. In my test line 150 was identical across all packages. All but one package - TaxChopper - had the same line 236 and the CRA confirmed that TaxChopper's application of foreign tax credits to line 232, which had the effect of reducing my taxes owing by about $35, is legitimate.
- CRA does NOT test whether deductions and tax credits are claimed, nor whether taxes could be reduced by allowable transfers, such as tuition costs from student to parent or spouse, pension income between spouses or other optimizations. It is not CRA's job to lower anyone's income tax. Thus, the fact that a number of programs neglected to claim foreign or provincial tax credits, causing the big differences in my tax owing, is not a concern to CRA.
- CRA has itself noticed differences amongst the programs in the course of their testing, though it is not their job to recommend any program as being worse or better than others. But for those taxpayers like me who want to legally pay the least amount, it is significant to receive confirmation the differences I found are not erroneous, anomalous or rare. CRA is considering adding words to its disclaimer on the various NETFILE packages to say that taxpayers should shop around.
- Everyone should shop around and enter their data into several of the programs to see which gives the least tax owing or biggest refund for them. After all, most of the work of doing taxes is gathering the slips and data, so re-entering it a couple of extra times isn't a lot of extra effort. Is that effort worth the possible hundreds of dollars or more difference? With the web programs, there's nothing to download and install, nor is it necessary to pay before seeing what the bottom line is. Based on my own test, I'd suggest TaxChopper is worth a try - if they have incorporated a fairly subtle deduction that no one else does, chances are that they might be more thorough in claiming other advantages.
- More testing - I think it's time to go back and try a couple of other optimization scenarios such as pension splitting and tuition transfers to see which package performs best. I'd be curious what other people may have found for their own case.