You can estimate your taxes, track charitable donations, check
the status of your refund, access standard mileage rates and
retirement plan limits and, yes, even file a tax return from your
"Users can save time and costly data-entry errors by taking
photos of their tax forms and importing the numbers through [an]
app," says Sandee Astrachan, lead product manager at H&R
As the number of U.S. mobile subscribers with smartphones
continues to increase -- almost 70 percent of U.S. mobile
subscribers own smartphones, according to a 2014 comScore report --
so do the options to use tech to manage personal finances. In fact,
33 percent of consumers have used their phones for mobile banking,
according to a 2014 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.
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, H&R Block and TaxAct are free to
download (you may pay an e-filing fee). When first introduced a few
years ago, the tax-filing apps were limited to 1040EZ returns,
which excluded people with high incomes, lots of deductions or
other financial complexities. But that's gradually changing. For
example, TurboTax this year expanded its app to accommodate
taxpayers filing all types of returns, giving you the flexibility
to file from your phone no matter how intricate your return.
TurboTax and H&R Block's apps also let you 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.
TurboTax Mobile App
It's free to file a 1040EZ, otherwise the fee is based on the
type of return filed. TurboTax raised the ire of taxpayers
earlier this year when it changed its software for 2014 returns.
Filers who want to itemize deductions such as mortgage interest
or charitable donations on a Schedule A need to upgrade from
TurboTax Basic to TurboTax Deluxe; filers who need to file a
Schedule C for businesses, Schedule D for capital gains or
Schedule E for rental property must upgrade from TurboTax Deluxe
to the Premier or Home and Business versions of the software
The app, just like the desktop version, asks specific questions
to help you complete a tax return. You can snap a photo of your
W-2 or 1099 and the information is synced to your online account
and entered into your tax return. It's possible to move between
devices, starting a return on your desktop and completing it on
your smartphone, for example. New this year: Users can also
complete their returns in Spanish.
H&R Block 1040EZ 2014
Cost: Free to file a 1040EZ, state returns start at $9.99
Designed for filers with W-2, interest or unemployment income,
who do not own a home or claim dependents and earned less than
$100,000. The app asks you a few qualifying questions and then
walks you through the process, pulling 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 audit guarantee.
The app is free to download; it's free to file federal and state
Although the app, which was introduced in 2014, is designed for
filers with simple returns, it accommodates a greater number of
tax situations than the 1040EZ. For example, taxpayers claiming
dependents, education credits and retirement savings
contributions can file using the app. If you start filing a
return and encounter situations not covered by the app, the
information can be transferred to the online or tablet versions
of the software for filing more complex returns. The app also
allows users to track the status of their federal refund.
2. Estimate your taxes or refund
If you're wondering how big your refund will be or how much you'll
owe this year, several apps 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 W-2 form or your final
pay stub of the year.
TaxCaster by Intuit
Reviewers have found this app's estimates to be pretty accurate,
and it's also among the easiest to use. The app is made by
TurboTax, and will recommend an appropriate version of TurboTax's
TaxSlayer Free Refund Calculator
Provide basic information about your income, withholdings,
deductions and tax credits and the app provides an estimate of
your refund. While reviewers rave about its accuracy, it's best
applied to simple tax situations (it doesn't take 1099 income,
mortgage interest or retirement contributions into account, for
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
MyTaxRefund -- Track Your Refund Status
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 your bank.
TaxAct Tax Return Status
After filing your tax return, download this app and enter some
basic information, including your SSN, anticipated refund amount
and filing status and the app notifies you when the IRS has
received your tax return, when the refund has been approved and
an estimated date when the refund will be received.
4. Find an answer
Get instant answers to thousands of tax-related questions organized
BNA Quick Tax Reference
Bloomberg created this handy reference app to put information
about standard mileage rates, standard deductions/personal
exemptions, retirement plan limits, capital gains and more at
your fingertips. In addition to current tax rates, the app also
includes rates going back to 2011.
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.
N2F Expense Report
$1.99 (a free trial is available).
Track business expenses such as receipts and mileage and create a
PDF expense report that can be exported to the cloud or shared
via email. The app allows you to classify and track expenses by
month, project or client. You can also track the status of
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
Need help tracking the donations you make throughout the year? Apps
can streamline the process, making it easier to itemize your
charitable contributions on your tax return.
It's Deductible Donation Tracker
The app, created by TurboTax, allows you to track all of your
charitable contributions, including donated items, cash donations
and mileage related to volunteer work. If you're not sure how to
value the bag of clothes or kitchen gadgets you donated, the app
provides resale values of similar items. At tax time, information
about your donations can be exported into TurboTax to complete
Pros and cons of paying taxes with a credit