April 15 is looming -- but no worries, you can file your taxes from your phone.
If you’re lucky enough to have a brief and simple filing, there are a handful of reliable tax apps that can make the filing process a breeze. No sweat, a photo, and a few taps on a smartphone.
Warm up with TaxSlayer’s Refund Calculator app, available on iTunes and Google Play, which gives a quick estimate of how much the user will get back from Uncle Sam (or owe). There’s a separate app to file. TaxSlayer Go is free to download on (on iTunes and Google Play) free to file a basic federal return. The company charges extra for any form that’s not a 1040EZ, and more for each state filing.
The TaxACT web app won rave reviews from the likes of PC Mag and LifeHacker for its versatility and ease of use. On top of that, the paid version is among the cheaper options out there. And yes, it comes in Mobile: TaxAct Express for phone tackles the popular forms, and is available on iTunes and Google Play. For a more involved filing, the tablet version packs all the goods in one app. (iTunes, Google Play)
Intuit’s SnapTax is a mobile-friendly, stripped down version of its popular TurboTax web application. Just snap a photo of a W-2, answer a few simple questions and that’s mostly all. The app is free to download, and free to file federal returns with. A state return costs $14.99. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
The basic phone app from H&R Block, their “1040EZ” is free to download on iTunes and Google Play. It charges $9.99 to prepare a return. Like some other apps, it starts with a photo of a W-2 (and a few but not all other forms) and asks a few questions before filing.
H&R Block’s iPad app allows users to wade into more complicated filing turf. With it, one can report self employment income, earnings on rentals, for example. Tiered pricing for additional features, and the basic federal return is $34.99 and basic state return is $29.99.
For app users planning early for next year, there’s a boatloads of companion apps that are designed to make life easier. Shoeboxed keeps track of your receipts, for example, while MileBug keeps track of deductible miles.
So now all the right forms are filed — how long until a check’s in the mail? The IRS2Go app from the U.S. government lets someone who has filed track the progress of an e-filed return, 24 hours after the IRS receives it. Available on Google Play and iTunes for the iPhone or iTouch.
Some users might be wary -- and rightly so -- of punching their social security number into an app. In general, tax apps from the Google Play and iTunes store are a reliable bet, says one security expert.
But reach “outside the walled gardens of Google and Apple” and beware, said Robert Siciliano, online security expert at McAfee. Though he wouldn’t name names, he said that un-vetted third-party apps accessible to jail-broken or rooted devices “are specifically more vulnerable.”
Siciliano had some general security tips to keep in mind — after all, it’s sensitive data you’re keying into your phone.
- While filing, stick to a trusted Wi-Fi network with a password. Stay clear of the free networks at the local coffee shop or airport.
- When finished with a session, log out of the tax prep app.
- Update your phone with the latest version of the operating system.
- Check to make sure you have the latest version of the app, as updates sometimes patch security flaws.
- Last but not least, always remember to lock your device.
First published April 11 2014, 5:06 AM