Tax Preparation Software Improvements Focus on Apps

Paul Sakuma/AP
By Doug Olenick

If you're among the 40 percent of taxpayers who use software to prepare your income tax returns, there are several changes and improvements that you should know about:

H&R Block

H&R Block (HRB) is adding two notable features. One allows users to prepare their tax return on a mobile device with a browser or a smartphone. A second, called Refund Reveal, helps taxpayers understand what's affecting their return. In the past, the software would simply calculate the amount of the refund, or amount owed, without explaining why. Now, the software will reveal why the tax return changed from the previous year. For example, it may note that the amount changed due to a child tax credit, or because too much money was taken out in taxes throughout the year.

H&R Block also has a new promotion called Refund Bonus. Users can apply their refund to a gift card, and the tax preparation company will match 10 percent of the amount on the card for those customers using its Deluxe or Premium products. For those customers using its other products, it will match 5 percent on the card. H&R Block carries four products: Free; Basic, $19.99; Deluxe, $29.99; and Premium $49.99.

TurboTax

TurboTax, which is part of Intuit (INTU), is offering an app that allows users to shift from one mobile device to another as they prepare their return. It also provides a way to import images from a camera on a smartphone or tablet computer and transfer them into the software. Customers can input such information as their W-2 forms by taking a photo of it. Software updates will be uploaded to customers' mobile devices between the time of purchase and filing taxes. TurboTax has four versions: Free for federal returns; Deluxe, $29.99; Premiere, $49.99; and Home and Business; $74.99.

TaxACT

TaxACT, which is part of Blucora (BCOR), is planning an update that features a TaxACT Express app, which will allow users to prepare and check the status of their return. There is also additional functionality being built into TaxACT's mobile donation tracker app Donation Assistant. This app allows users to track their cash and non-cash donations as they are given. Donation Assistant includes more than 1,300 audit-backed, fair market values for household items.

TaxACT Online customers can also manage their returns and information from one secure account, accessible through any browser on any device. Customers will gain access to all of their 2014 tax returns, as well as future returns, and can see the status of their returns and federal refunds after filing electronically. It will also integrate all the TaxACT mobile app functions. The Affordable Care Act Accelerator has been updated to reflect new ACA rules, changes, credits, subsidies and applications. TaxACT has four levels: Free; Deluxe Federal, $12.99; and Ultimate Bundle, which adds a state return, $17.99.

Jackson Hewitt

Jackson Hewitt Online has revamped its user interface, making it easier for customers to file their return online. For those users who wish to switch to Jackson Hewitt, Hewitt now allows tax data information to be ported into its system from other tax preparation vendors.

Users are able to file federal returns for free and the firm has tax professionals online and ready to help filers via chat. Customers can also walk into offices nationwide for help. The Accelerator tool is updated to reflect new ACA rules, changes, credits, subsidies and applications. Jackson Hewitt has four versions: Free to handle simple returns; Basic, $19.95; Deluxe, $34.95; and Premium, $49.95.

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