Question: I'm getting ready to do my taxes soon and would like to know if there are any good mobile apps or websites that will make this less painful and stressful (besides the obvious tax prep tools, of course). Help me get all the stuff I need organized!
Answer: Ah, tax season. Just the thought of it gives some of us headaches. The good news is there are lots of free and inexpensive apps and tools that can greatly simplify this awful process, from getting organized to filing your return. Here's what we recommend.
Get your tax documents in order
If you have an uncomplicated return (one W2, for example, and take the standard deduction), congratulations: You don't have to worry much about organizing your tax records. For everyone else, though, managing the piles of receipts and other documents is a big part of the pain. Several apps can help with that.
Evernote: The Swiss Army knife of note taking and capture tools, Evernote excels at keeping your documents categorized into notebooks. You can set up a tax notebook and then either sub-notebooks or tags for different categories like income statements, interest earned, charitable contributions, and the like. Combine Evernote with compact scanner Doxie or ScanSnap, and you can quickly file your receipts in Evernote. Another strategy is to use webapp automation serviceIFTTT to automatically send any emails you tag in Gmail with a tax label to your Evernote tax notebook. Handy!
Shoeboxed: If scanning and managing all those papers isn't your thing, take a look at receipt scanning solution Shoeboxed. As we've previously mentioned, you can mail, email, or upload your receipts to Shoeboxed and they'll OCR and categorize the documents for you. You can export those receipts to popular tax programs, as well as Evernote, and mobile apps are available. A free account lets you store 5 documents per month, while premium plans starting at $9.95 give you more capacity.
Slice: Slice is a brilliant receipt and package tracking webapp and mobile app. It scans your Gmail for receipts and gives you an overview of your entire purchase history. Last year, I used the convenient listing to find tax-deductible receipts I had forgotten about.
Expensify (pictured right): If you can take deductible expenses like car mileage and meals and entertainment expenses when you travel for business, Expensify has your back. The mobile apps and web receipts extension capture all those stray receipts and attachments and can turn them into IRS-approved eReceipts. It's a great app for independent contractors.
Your personal finance program and financial accounts: Of course, don't forget to consult your personal finance tool, such as popular Mint or Quicken to see spending by category and find all those deductible expenses. Both can port your information to TurboTax.
Also, your year-end statements from your credit card or bank can also come in handy if you're hunting down your tax-related expenses. (American Express has an awesome searchable and sortable view of statements by category.)
TaxCaster by TurboTax (pictured right): Want a sneak peek at how much of a refund (or tax bill) you'll get this year? This free tax refund calculator will estimate your taxes based on your quick inputs. It's available online, for Android, and for iOS.
Bloomberg BNA Quick Tax Reference: This app for Android,iPhone, and BlackBerry gives you instant access to tax rates and other handy information, such as IRA limits, mileage rates, and more. It's developed for financial professionals, but also offers useful tools like quickly calculating your total tax.
TaxACT Central: A companion app to the popular, free tax filing service, TaxACT Central can answer your tax questions and keep you organized, with a convenient checklist of what you need to file. You don't have to use TaxACT for filing to make use of the Android or iPhone app.
File your taxes and monitor your refund
We generally recommend going to a tax professional unless you have a very simple return. If yours isn't complicated, though, mobile and desktop apps can streamline filing your return and tracking your refund.
TurboTax SnapTax (pictured right): You can file your taxes in as little as ten minutes using this simple Android and iPhone app. Snap a photo of your W2, answer a few questions, and file right from the phone or online. (Isn't the future great?) This app is only for those who: make under $100,000 ($120,000 if married); only have W2, interest, or unemployment income; and don't own a home. Free to try, but $24.99 to file both federal and state.
H&R Block also offers mobile tax apps. The 1040EZ for Smartphone prepares your simple federal and state returns for free on Android and iPhone. There's also a iPad app not limited to 1040EZ returns, with free federal filing for simple returns and an additional fee for state filing.
Of course, both of these tax services (and many others) have desktop and/or webapps. Not all tax preparation software will give you the same results, though.ConsumerSearch has rounded up reviews of the top four tax prep applications, and Get Rich Slowly has an excellent (yet older) price comparison of these solutions and services.
IRS2Go: From Uncle Sam himself, IRS2Go doesn't let you file taxes from the Android oriPhone apps, but you can check the status of your refund, get tax law updates, request a copy of your tax records in the mail, and watch IRS YouTube videos. (Perhaps not the most exciting download, but we are talking about the IRS and taxes here.)
Grab these apps and put them in a new tax organization folder and you'll be set for this tax season and beyond.
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