Paying Uncle Sam may be a little easier this year, thanks to a
flood of new and improved tax apps for your smartphone.
You can estimate your taxes, track charitable donations, check
the status of your refund, find the answer to a tax question and,
yes, even file a simple tax return from your smartphone. For the
second year, both H&R Block and TurboTax have apps that allow
taxpayers to file a 1040EZ from their device.
"More and more people are getting comfortable banking or making
other financial transaction using apps," says Chris Jackman,
product manager for H&R Block. "It makes sense to give
[taxpayers] the ability to use an app to file their returns,
More than 60 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers own smartphones
-- up 10 percent over 2012, according to a
2013 Nielson report
Younger consumers are especially comfortable using technology to
handle financial matters. Neilsen reports that three out of four
users between the ages of 18 and 34 owned a smartphone. In
addition, 48 percent of consumers used their
phone for mobile banking
, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
H&R Block and TurboTax are targeting these tech-savvy
smartphone users with apps that allow them to use their mobile
network to file their taxes.
In 2012, Samson Adepoju, a public relations manager in New York
City, said he used TurboTax's SnapTax to take photos of his W-2 and
other tax forms, and then transferred the information to the firm's
online software, which he used to finish his return. "Instead of
typing everything in manually, I took a few pictures," he said. "It
definitely saved me time."
Here are a few tax time tasks you can do with your smartphone,
and a sampling of apps that can help:
1. File your taxes
The apps from TurboTax and H&R Block are free to download (you
may pay an e-filing fee), but they're not for everyone. If your
income is more than $100,000, you own a home or you plan to take
advantage of credits and deductions for items such as tuition
payments and charitable donations, you'll need to find another way
TurboTax's app is slightly more sophisticated, and it allows you
to file if you have dependents, while H&R Block's doesn't. But
H&R Block's filing fee is lower.
The coolest part? Both apps ask you to snap a photo of your W-2
and then use it to auto-fill much of the information on your tax
form. The tool can be a little finicky, though, so make sure you
double-check the details it enters. Then answer a few questions,
pay the filing fee if necessary, push a button and -- voila! --
you've filed your taxes.
It's free to e-file a federal 1040EZ and $14.99 to e-file state
. New this year: Users can also complete their returns in Spanish.
Promises to get your taxes done in 10 minutes. It's suitable for
taxpayers who have W-2, interest or unemployment income, do not own
a home and earned less than $100,000 ($120,000 for married
filers). Even if you don't qualify to file taxes with the app, you
can still use it to take pictures of your W-2 and 1099-INT forms
and transfer the information to TurboTax's online software, saving
you from typing it in.
H&R Block 1040EZ
$9.99 to file federal and state taxes beginning Feb. 16
Asks you a few qualifying questions and then walks you through the
process. The app pulls information from the photo of your W-2 into
your return. If you don't qualify to use the app, you'll be
directed to the firm's website, where you can find an H&R Block
office and make an appointment or use the online software. All
returns filed with the 1040EZ app are backed by the worry-free
2. Estimate your taxes or refund
If you're wondering how big your refund will be or how much you'll
owe this year, apps from TurboTax, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt
can give you a ballpark estimate. Before you start, make sure you
know the amount of tax withheld from your pay, which you can find
on your pay stub.
TaxCaster by TurboTax
Reviewers have found this app's estimates to be pretty accurate,
and it's also among the easiest to use. Another nice feature: If
you use TurboTax to do your taxes, it tells you which version you
3. Track your refund
After asking a few basic questions, different apps can keep you
posted on the status of your tax return and predict when you can
have that cash in hand.
The official app of the Internal Revenue Service. You'll need your
Social Security number, ZIP code, filing status and the anticipated
amount of your refund. The newest version includes a status tracker
to monitor where your return is in the process; for e-filed
returns, you can check your status within 24 hours of filing (it
takes up to four weeks to check the status of a paper return). You
can also use the app to have your tax return transcript mailed to
you, or to get tax tips and the latest IRS news.
Another app from TurboTax. You can use it even if you didn't use
their software to file your taxes. Connect it to your online Intuit
Mint account to be alerted when your refund check is deposited at
4. Find an answer
Get instant answers to thousands of tax-related questions organized
If you don't see your question in the archives, you can submit it
and a local CPA is supposed to answer it for free. Unfortunately,
there's no guarantee of a response. (We didn't get immediate
responses to two questions we submitted.) Still, the information in
the archive alone is so thorough it's worth the free download.
5. Track your expenses
The IRS requires you to keep business receipts for at least three
years, but that can add up to a lot of paper -- not to mention a
mess to dig through at tax time. Instead, try an app that lets you
use your smartphone's camera to take photos of receipts and create
an organized digital record.
Free for up to five receipts a month; pricing plans starting at
$9.95 for 50 receipts a month.
Snap a picture of your receipt and Shoeboxed creates a file with
the date, total, payment type, store and category. You can export
the data from your smartphone directly to Excel, QuickBooks and
Free for up to 10 receipts per month; then 20 cents each
In addition to scanning and digitally storing your receipts, this
app also lets you track miles and hours worked. You can then email
yourself or a tax professional a report of your expenses right from
your phone or upload everything to QuickBooks.
6. Track and value charitable donations
Having a tough time remembering everything that was in that bag you
left at Goodwill and estimating what each item might be worth? Use
an app to keep a running tab.
This app tracks the noncash items you give to charity, with the
option to attach a photo of each item. Once you give your item a
category and a grade (good, better, best), the app offers a
suggested value, which can be helpful since most of us don't know
how much a 3-year-old pair of pants is worth. You can also record
cash donations. Then you can email your donation reports to
yourself or straight to your accountant.
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11 options for filing tax returns for free