Taxes don’t have to be tough, though they do have to get done. Thankfully, we now live in a world where some of the most complex and intimidating tasks — ahem, filling out your 1040a — become far easier with the a little help from technology.
There’s no longer a need to sit at your computer with your TI-84 and a booming headache, as both Android or iOS now tout apps that allow you to manage different filing aspects from anywhere you choose. Some software helps you estimate taxes and check refunds, while others will give you a quick means for preparing taxes in advance and filing them on the move. Others still, serve as rich reference material, because, frankly, we can’t all afford our own taxman. Below are 10 of our favorites, from Expensifiy and My Block to TaxACT Express.
Although the official IRS smartphone app for Android and iOS devices is pretty barebones, it does let you check the status of your tax refund, make tax payments, and get updates from the IRS. It also provides numbers and times when you can call and ask questions, along with tool that lets you sign up for a slew of tax hints. If you e-filed your taxes, you can also check on their status in the app within 72 hours.
If the IRS app isn’t doing it for you, H&R Block offers a more featured app. Dubbed My Block, it will let you check your refund status and browse a notable help section that’s full of terms and answers to basic tax questions. The app also features a checklist that helps you create a tax filing to-do list for yourself, along with tools that allows you to plan your paycheck in advance and estimate the extent of your refund. If you still have questions or need help, you can set up an appointment at a local H&R Block office from within the app. You can even upload documents so your tax pro will have them on hand to look at.
Expensify isn’t tailored made for taxes per se, but it does help independent contractors or anyone else looking to further cement their deductible expenditures throughout the year. The straightforward mobile app allows you to capture receipts, track time or mileage, and generally make note of any expenses or attachments you have laying around. It can also automatically import credit card transactions and scan receipts to create expense reports — if desired — both of which you can later convert into IRS-approved eReceipts that minimize your paper footprint, and, more importantly, any tax-related discrepancies.
H&R Block’s Tax Preparation isn’t the same as the company’s My Block app. Whereas the latter serves as a vital source information and a means for quick planning, the former is more concerned with preparing and actually filing the taxes at hand. The free app culls and imports information directly from a photo of your W-2, whether you opt for the Free, Basic, Deluxe, or Premium edition of H&R’s service. It provides you with an in-depth look at what causes your refund to ebb and flow, along with cross-platform syncing and status updates regarding your return. Additional advice and free, in-person audit support also come standard.
Ask a CPA
Don’t let the dated looks and orange-coated interface fool you … Ask a CPA is a competent adviser designed to fit snugly in the pocket of your jeans. The simple app provides you with a host of basic tips regarding the latest tax changes, many of which span a variety of different categories, from alimony and dividends to adoption expenses and charitable deductions. However, the app also gives you the opportunity to ask specifics if your question hasn’t already covered within the app’s archives, to which CPA’s in your local area can then respond. It’s a fantastic resource for individual taxpayers, accounting students, and small business owners looking for answers to common tax questions. Now, let’s just hope your question fits in the given text box.
Next Page: Five more great apps for prepping and filing your taxes
Intuit is the company behind TurboTax, so it’s not particularly surprising that its personal finance service is also one of the best if you’re looking to keep tabs on your finances year round. The app quickly syncs with your bank accounts to provide you with a detailed snapshot of your expenditures, offering up a wealth of telling data regarding your spending habits when it comes to food, utilities, entertainment, and other facets of your monthly budget. You can also set low-balance alerts, customize your budget restrictions to better suit your lifestyle. Best of all, your expenses can later be exported and shared once properly tagged and categorized, allowing you to effortlessly comb through past purchases come tax season.
TurboTax Preparation does exactly what the name implies. Like the service’s Web-based counterpart, the mobile app provides a swath of tax-related information and tools for preparing and e-filing your taxes, whether you intend to submit the state or federal versions thereof. It pulls information from a photo of your W-2 and provides step-by-step guidance as it does, while conveniently searching more than 350 tax deductions and credits to help you better maximize your refund. The service also double checks your work and information as you go, and because the app syncs across platforms, you can switch between your iPhone, iPad, and computer at your own leisure. And while may require a fee when it comes time to actually file, you can pay the fee using your return. How’s that for handy?
If you don’t file your taxes with TurboTax or H&R Block, chances are that you side with TaxACT. Fortunately for you, the service’s official app is as resourceful as it is satisfactory, especially for those hoping to prepare and file simple returns. It covers the most common tax situations, regardless if you’re dealing with unemployment compensation or a basic W-2, and even automatically imports information from an image of the latter so you don’t have to manually punch it in. The app also tracks the status of your IRS refund and notifies you when it’s been processed, and unlike other tax services on our roundup, it allows you to e-file your federal and state extensions for free. A modern touch-up to the interface would just make it that much more enticing to use.
BNA Quick Tax Reference
Like IRS2Go, Bloomberg’s app isn’t exactly pretty, nor does it explain itself well. However, it does provide some valuable reference material, should you need it. Mileage rates, corporate tax rate schedules, individual tax rate schedules, standard deductions, retirement plan limits, and more are all in here in unfiltered tables. The tax rates date all the way back to 2012, too, and you can estimate your taxable income for different filing statuses using the built-in calculator. It’s tailored more so toward the finance aficionado who’s looking for some quick estimates prior to meeting with clients, yet it also servers as a worthwhile resource for anyone seeking some ballpark tax figures on the go.
Yes, this is another Intuit app, but it’s a bit easier to use and more detailed than H&R Block’s My Block. Intuit’s TurboTax is the leader in its category for a reason — Its apps are functional, pretty, and easy to use. Obviously, this is an app for those with relatively simple taxes and a single job. You don’t have to sign up to use it. Simply enter your wages, marital status, earnings, and deductions and TaxCaster pumps out a quick estimate of what you kind of refund you might receive. This allows you to choose the right TurboTax product for your needs, or adjust your paycheck withholdings so you can better plan ahead. It doesn’t prepare your taxes, but it does prepare you for what you can expect down the line.
This article was originally published on April 12, 2012, and updated most recently on January 22, 2016, by Brandon Widder.
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