Make Taxes Easier – There’s an App for That
These apps will help you file your return, track receipts and expenses year-round and more. Apps can help taxpayers stay organized throughout the year so tax prep is less overwhelming.
By Molly McCluskey Feb. 3, 2015
It seems there are as many apps promising to ease the burden of tax time as there are taxpayers, and navigating them can be almost as overwhelming as itemizing deductions. From ones that let you file your return to others that help you track receipts and expenses year-round, here are some of the best apps, how much they cost and tips for who might find them the most useful. Best Apps for Reference and Planning Everyone knows the adage, “You get what you pay for.”
While that may be true in many cases, when it comes to the best apps for financial management at tax time, another one is more accurate: “The best things in life are free.” IRS2Go The IRS2Go app is a great example of this. Most known for the handy refund status function, it also offers tax tips, YouTube videos and a listing of locations where taxpayers can get in-person assistance.
Another helpful app is Bloomberg BNA’s Quick Tax Reference, a handy and streamlined tool that offers basic information on personal exemptions, capital gains, tax information for estates and trusts, pension information and more. It’s free to download and useful year-round for folks who want quick information without being bogged down.
Two of the more well-known tax advising apps, Ask a CPA and Ask a Tax Preparer, are also free and provide a wide variety of answers to the most common tax questions, ranging from the current year mileage rates, standard deductions, information on Health Savings Accounts and others. Compared with Bloomberg’s app, they’re easy to use and provide a much wider scope of tax and personal finance answers.
Since users of these apps must agree to the terms and conditions, which include an aggressive marketing clause, they’re best for people who aren’t worried about how their information will be used.
Best Apps for Tracking Receipts and Expenses
Even though April 15 rarely arrives without warning, many people still scramble at the last minute to track down elusive receipts, charitable write-offs or mileage counts. There are, of course, apps to help keep them all organized, but some come with so many bells and whistles that they may be abandoned as quickly as they’re downloaded.
“The person who would normally just gather their receipts and dump them on the accountant’s desk is not going to be the person who’s going to input into a sophisticated app,” says Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax attorney and blogger at TaxGirl.com. “It doesn’t make sense to buy an app that’s really fancy that will do everything for you if you won’t ever use it.” For those people, Erb recommends simply using the camera function on their smartphone, then keeping the photos organized in something like Dropbox or Evernote, which both offer free accounts, free apps, Web-based services and the ability to easily share folders with a third party, such as an accountant or other tax professional.
For taxpayers who prefer more hands-on organization, Shoeboxed’s app will scan and categorize receipts by amount, vendor and payment method, then file them according to tax category. The app creates expense reports and tracks mileage, and it also has a handy business card function. “Most people wear a lot of hats. You’re either at work, you have your family, you’re constantly doing a million things, and accounting is just one of those things that can drag you down,” says Claudia Amand, a spokeswoman for Shoeboxed. “It’s a tedious task, it’s time-consuming and it takes away time from people being able to do what they really want to do.” Mint The Shoeboxed platform works with many of the major online tax and accounting service providers and essentially merges with these platforms when it comes time to transfer data. A Shoeboxed account can also be shared with an accountant or create reports that can be exported. The company offers multitiered plans, beginning with a free account and app and free trial periods on upgraded services.
Most, if not all, of the online financial management websites also offer complimentary apps for account holders. Mint, Xero, QuickBooks, Expensify and others allow for tracking, tagging and categorizing expenses, which can be exported or shared come tax time. Because tracking all that information year-round isn’t helpful if it only lives on your phone. TurboTax Best Apps for Filing or Managing Your Return After a year of carefully tracking receipts, expenses and deductions, it’s now time to file your taxes. While filing via app has come a long way in the past few years, it still has a ways to go before it’s seamless. The TurboTax and H&R Block apps have filing capabilities, but both are probably still most convenient for people with simple re