Organize your receipts, get an estimate, and even file your tax return with these ingenious phone apps.
Make Taxes Easier
Whatever did people do before they could submit their taxes by cell phone?
We're not sure, but we know it wasn't pretty. No matter how many times we go through it, tax season is still one of the most dreaded times of the year (even for us). We're not sure if it's the math, or the paperwork, or the seemingly interminable wait to see if you owe or not. Probably all of the above, along with the lurking reminder that the government is slowly eating away at your soul-we mean, your earnings.
That said, it's 2011. And we have cell phones. Which means we have apps. Which make our lives so much better, and not only because we can sling 9 birds at pigs in under 10 seconds. We hunted to see if we could find the most buzzed-about tax apps to help you power through this roughest of financial seasons.
Taxes-they will never be great. But with these apps walking you through the process, they can be a little better.
Organize Your Receipts
How it works: Snap photos of your receipts via their app (you can also mail them in), and ShoeBoxed will upload your receipts to their easy online interface. From there, you can quickly digitally sort your paper receipts.
We like: The idea that we can quickly snap a pic and toss our receipts instead of collecting them throughout the year. Their interface makes sorting easy, and tax season will involve less shuffling through all those little bits of paper that tend to get lost.
We don't like: The $10 to $50 per month fee. It's only worth it unless you have a lot of receipts throughout the year, i.e. if you own a small business. The free version only allows you 5 receipt pics, but you can go old school and scan an unlimited number.
Get in the Mood
How it works: This tax priming app from H&R Block will help you brush up on your tax terms and get your documents in order. There is a checklist for your forms, a glossary of tax terms, tax Q&A, and a tax trivia quiz which is an ideal procrastination tool if we've seen any.
We like: The glossary of terms, if it were possible to like a glossary of tax terms. Finance nerds may like the slightly addictive tax quiz-and the rest of us will be all the more motivated to do our taxes after a few questions about what year the income tax was introduced.
We don't like: The app's ability to estimate your refund, since we prefer the interface of TaxCaster (also profiled) for that.
Get the Payoff Before You Start
How it works: Punch your numbers into this app, and it will quickly give you a ballpark estimate to the big question-whether you'll owe or get a refund, and how much. It's a nice way to get an idea of the outcome before diving in.
We like: That we don't have to plod through our taxes for hours without a sense of where we're headed. Use this app when you've settled down with your tax documents and are ready to get started, because you'll need your paperwork to fill in some basic numbers.
We don't like: Note that when the app shows an on/off switch, it actually wants a yes/no answer to a question. Answer carefully because that can largely affect the accuracy of your estimate.
Filing the Damn Thing
Use it for: Taking a photo of your W-2 on your iPhone or Android to file. No joke. You can file with the IRS from your cell phone.
We like: It imports info pretty accurately; in a test, it misread just one of the numbers on our W-2, confusing a 3 for a 5 (we were able to fix it manually). You can now file your taxes from the backseat of a cab or at a cafe-but we just like the fact that it's pretty damn cool to can tell our friends we filed via our phones. Just make sure you review all imported data with eagle eyes.
We don't like: SnapTax only works for people with simple tax returns. So, you can't use it if you made more than $80,000 in 2010 ($100,000 if you're married), own a home or have kids, sold stocks in 2010, or need to itemize your deductions. The app is free to download but costs $15 when you file. If you want to use it, use it now, since the price is expected to go up to $20 after March 25.