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IRS drops some features in latest app upgrade

Attention smartphone addicted taxpayers, the 2015 version of the Internal Revenue Service's app is now available.

That's good news for taxpayers who want the handheld option to find out just where in the IRS system their 2014 refunds are.

As in the past, you enter your Social Security number, your filing status, and the amount you're expecting back and hit enter.

If you're concerned about plugging in your nine-digit tax ID number, the IRS says don't be. The agency assures us that the number will be masked and encrypted for security purposes.

IRS2Go free tax help searchFinding help: While refund tracking is likely to be the most popular part of IRS2Go 5.0, a new feature could come in handy for taxpayers having trouble completing their returns.

IRS2Go can direct you to free face-to-face tax filing help in your area.

Just enter your Zip Code, hit search and up pops nearby Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) locations. The image at left show some near me here in the Austin area.

Older features out: However, to make room for the tax help option, the IRS dropped some previous features.

"They took a lot of the old settings out like requesting your old tax return papers and file checking from previous years," bemoaned one reviewer of the app's latest update. "I did my 2013 taxes and sent it in. I can't even check the status because this new update only lets you check for 2014."

OK, I'll cut the IRS some slack about prior year return status.

The agency has enough on its hands, especially in its cash-strapped state. If you're filing a return a year late, good for finally getting it done, but don't expect the system, which is set up for the millions filing on time, to focus on your tardy return.

No more app transcripts: As for the papers to which the unhappy app user refers, that was the Get My Tax Record option introduced in the 2012 version of IRS2Go.

Back then, with a click on the app you could order a tax return transcript, which then would be delivered to you in paper form via the U.S. Postal Service. 

I'm cutting the IRS more slack here.

No more app transcripts isn't a great loss. It wasn't an instantaneous receipt of your transcript. It was in paper form, which takes time to print and costs to mail. It's no secret that the IRS has been forcing encouraging us to go electronic as much as possible with our taxes.

Plus, you can go to your PC or laptop and get an electronic version of your tax transcript to view, print, or download immediately. Who wants to look at all the information on a transcript via their phone or even a tablet anyway?

For folks complaining about the IRS app changes, I offer the words the popular modern philosopher Taylor Swift: "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate."

I'm sure the IRS is just shaking it off.

News app options: Finally, IRS2Go still offers you ways to stay up to date on what's happening with Uncle Sam's tax collector.

The Stay Connected button takes you to links to the IRS Twitter feed, Tumblr page and YouTube channel. You also can subscribe to the IRS' tax tips.

If you want more, the app also provides contact information, including phone numbers, online tools and IRS offices in your area.

The app is free. It's available via the Apple App on those devices or at the Google Play Store.

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Elizabeth Jones

I'm glad that the IRS is "making lemonade" out of its cash-poor status. While I do wish it had the money to actually staff its phone lines with live human beings, at least we have IRS technology tools to help.

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