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SnapTax fills in tax forms from smartphone snapshots

It’s that time of year: W2 forms are starting to appear in mailboxes, ushering in tax season for millions of Americans. And while doing taxes online has been popular for years, 2011 may be the start of a mobile era for tax filing. SnapTax, made by the folks at Intuit’s Turbotax, is a newly released app that lets users file their state and federal income taxes on iPhones or Android smartphones.

Anyone who qualifies to fill out the 1040EZ abbreviated tax form — an estimated 22 million Americans — will be able to use SnapTax to file their taxes this year.

And taxpayers needn’t worry about filling out line after line on their device’s relatively small screen. SnapTax allows users to take a picture of their w2 forms using their smartphone’s camera. The information is then interpreted by optical character recognition (OCR) and used to populate the appropriate areas of the 1040EZ form — although, given, OCR’s reputation as a less than perfect system, you’ll probably want to double check to make sure a “4” didn’t show up as a “9” somewhere.

Users will then answer a few questions and receive a report showing their expected refund amount (or amount due). TurboTax says that the whole filing process should take about 15 to 30 minutes.

TurboTax tested the app last year in California where its use was limited to state tax returns.

SnapTax is available now in Apple’s App Store and the Android Market as a free download, but users will have to pay $14.99 in order to file their taxes using the service.

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