As Canadians across the country frantically submitted their taxes this week in an effort to meet Sunday’s deadline, it’s likely that more than a few did so on their mobile devices, an executive behind one of the continent’s most popular tax filing software platforms says.
In fact, Anthony Milito, senior marketing manager at Intuit Canada, says that his company’s signature product, TurboTax, has seen a 45 per cent increase in mobile use this year compared to last season.
He’s equally quick to emphasize that while mobile filing is an established practice it remains, unsurprisingly, a “very, very small part” of the overall Canadian tax filing landscape – “and by ‘small’ I mean the low single digits, in relation to the overall number of filings received by the CRA,” he says.
Yet the number of Canadians using TurboTax on their mobile devices has more than doubled since 2014, when approximately 10,000 Canadians used a mobile application to file their taxes, he says – a tremendous gain, however small the base, and one that continues to grow.
“Peoples’ interest in mobile, and adoption of mobile as a means to file their taxes, is increasing,” he says. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a double digit increase in the number of people who file their taxes on mobile, and based on some of the market data we’ve seen this year, that trend seems to be continuing.”
It’s also worth noting that mobile filing statistics encompass two types of users, he says: those who file their taxes on mobile, and those who start on a mobile device but finish elsewhere.
The company has seen the number of Canadians doing the latter increase by more than 50 per cent since last year, Milito says.
“The great thing about TurboTax is it’s multiplatform, so you can start on your mobile device, continue on your laptop, and finish on your desktop, all using your preferred browser,” he says. “So for TurboTax we’re seeing an increased percentage of people starting their tax return on mobile before continuing to file through other platforms.”
Two reasons why
Asked why filing taxes on mobile devices is increasingly popular, Milito believes it comes down to two factors: convenience and marketing.
It’s increasingly common for users to access TurboTax on their mobile devices, create an account and build a profile, perhaps during their commute home, and then wait until they’re using a more comfortable, secure medium such as a laptop, desktop, or tablet to actually file their taxes, for instance.
“Obviously it’s very convenient,” he says. “And from a marketing persoective, both us and some of our competitors in this space have naturally gravitated towards engaging with customers on mobile devices.”
“I think it’s partly meeting customers where they are, and partly customers increasingly feeling comfortable starting their tax returns through mobile,” he says.
Another factor, he says, is product-level support: In the case of TurboTax, Intuit has developed a product that is not only readily available, but one that spans platforms, including a free version that was explicitly developed mobile-first.
“Customers who want to use our free product for their tax journey can start and complete it in a purely mobile-responsive environment,” Milito says, while the paid version is mobile-responsive 25 per cent of the way through before relying on pinch and zoom functionality.
“Based on the data we’ve seen, we’re giving customers a much more simplistic way of starting their taxes,” he says.
More popular in the U.S.
Milito also notes that mobile plays a much more significant role in the U.S. tax filing landscape.
“Obviously the tax situations are very different, so we treat the Canada and U.S. versions of TurboTax as independent products,” he says. “But based on what we’ve seen in terms of the overall market, the rate of TurboTax mobile usage is higher in the U.S. than it is in Canada.”
In the future, Intuit Canada sees a “significant trajectory” between mobile use of its product today and potential usage rates within five years, Milito says, and is taking “a very close look” to identify the experiences it can build to reach its goal. Regardless, he says, the trajectory can only go up.
“In both the overall U.S. market and TurboTax in particular, I can tell you that they’re seeing a much more significant part of their base start and complete filing on their mobile devices,” he says. “And so we see a very clear trajectory in how mobile can really take off in Canada as well.”
Right now the offering is simply the base TurboTax application accessed through a mobile web wrapper, but the team is looking into whether it could make it a native application.
“It was our first introduction to the fully free filing space,” Milito says. “And we’re certainly seeing the product have significant success year over year, so we’ll see where that trajectory takes us over the next couple of years.”