Fun and free. Two words you don't typically associate with filing taxes. That's how Jonathan Suter describes the system he has developed called SimpleTax, a Vancouver-based tax return software company.
"It came about out of frustration," said Suter, one of three co-founders. "We wanted to fix a lot of the issues we saw in the marketplace — upsells, high pricing, a confusing interview flow."
Created in 2012, SimpleTax is an online app that aims to simplify tax preparation. Unlike its competitor TurboTax, the customer doesn't sift through web pages for the right deduction or answer dozens of questions. Instead, a search box lets you type the form you'd like to add to your return. And everything is kept on one page, accessible by scrolling up and down.
Pay what you can
But its the pricing model that draws the most attention. After users click 'File Return,' they decide what to pay — including nothing.
"It's a risk that's worth taking," said Suter. "You get to the end of the process and you can decide how much you want to pay. It can be $0, it can be $5, it can be $10. If you're happy with the product, you can support us by giving us money."
Although free returns exists elsewhere on the web, they're all dependent on demographics, according to Suter, charging customers mid-filing if they fall above a certain income level.
Suter was unwilling to disclose how many people choose to make a donation. But among the hundreds of thousands who've used SimpleTax, the average donation size is $11. One person rendered it a $2,000 service.
"It has forced us to really care about the customer," said Suter.
Heading into its third tax year, SimpleTax said it's profitable and will continue with the current revenue model. Its available everywhere in Canada, except Quebec which has a unique internal tax system.