Taxes? There are apps for that
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Once upon a time, the IRS let folks who filed 1040-EZ returns do so by telephone. Then came the Internet and TeleFile was axed.
But, as the saying goes, if you live long enough, you'll see the old become new again.
That happened last week when Intuit, maker of the popular tax preparation and e-filing software TurboTax, released SnapTax.
The smartphone application, available for both iPhones and Androids, uses image-recognition technology to read salary and withholding information from a W-2. After you answer a few questions and review your return, you hit "file now" and are done.
Filing your taxes by telephone! Who'd a-thunk it?
Mobile filing limits: This could be the thing that gets me to finally buy a smartphone. Oh wait. Snaptax won't work for me. I file Form 1040 and the new app is programmed for the Form 1040EZ, the simplest of individual tax returns.
It's also the return that young users of smartphones are most likely to use.
In addition to the tax form limits, SnapTax can only be used by an individual taxpayer whose income doesn't exceed $80,000. That's actually less than the $100,000 in earnings allowed single filers of the 1040EZ. (Both the app and the IRS allow married joint filers with income up to $100,000 to use the EZ.)
The reason for the lower income limit, says Intuit, it that it wants to make sure the app isn't used by filers who would be better off taking deductions allowed on the longer 1040A or 1040 returns.
Hmmm. Perhaps those folks higher-income, deduction-claiming folks might want to buy TurboTax. Just sayin'. Business is business.
And speaking of business, you can download it for free but it'll cost you $14.99 when you use it to e-file your return.
State taxes, too: What about that California refund amount shown on the image of the app? TurboTax tested SnapTax last year on state tax returns in the Golden State.
This year, it's available to taxpayers in all states.
More tax apps: SnapTax is just the latest tax-related phone app. You also might want to check out
- Tax Answers by H&R Block (iPhone)
- TaxCaster Mobile by TurboTax (iPhone, Android)
- Federal Tax Estimator (Android)
- Dictionary of Tax Terms (iPhone, Blackberry)
- Shoeboxed (iPhone)
- Receipt Filer Lite (Android)
- Dr. Taxes (iPhone)
- iDonatedIt (iPhone)
As I mentioned, I don't have a smartphone so I can't vouch for any of these. But I hear that some of the apps are free, while others have a nominal cost.
But even as just a spectator in the wild mobile app world, I do know that where an app incorportates your personal financial info, you need to be sure to check its security features.
OK with the IRS: So what does the agency that used to take tax returns via landline telephones think of all these mobile tax apps?
"We are in favor of anything that would make it easier for people to file their taxes," said IRS spokeswoman Sara Eguren.
- Free File is open for 2011 tax business
- E-file, Free File are now available
- Tax filing delays, deadline dates
- IRS making it harder to file paper returns
- Tax season deadlines 2011: Filing delayed for some
- Filing Valentine from the IRS
- The IRS' electronic future
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