15 Apps to Make Your Life Less (Income) Taxing
By Maryalene LaPonsie
Let's take a moment to marvel at the wonder that is smartphones. Sure, they may ruin our relationships and make us worse parents, but they can do so much good. They can save us money, make us money and, don't forget, take some pretty swell photographs, too.
But seriously, despite the negatives that come from the seemingly inescapable need to check our phones every 45 seconds, smartphones really do have plenty of positives. Now that we're into the tax season, Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson has one more reason to love them. He's compiled a list of the best smartphone apps to help you organize your records and file your tax return.
Apps to Get Organized
Let's start with the apps that help you organize your records. Your life will be easier if you use these apps throughout the year rather than trying to wade through a pile of receipts in January, but procrastination is a personal friend of mine, so I understand if you're going the pile-of-receipts route. Here are five apps to help you dissect your records and easily find what you need when filling in your tax forms.
- Shoeboxed. Around since 2007, Shoeboxed provides a painless way to pull, categorize and store information from receipts. You simply send your documents to the company, and one of its workers will process and verify the information. The app works in conjunction with the Shoeboxed website and is compatible with other organizational tools such as Gmail and Evernote. A free version is available, but that requires you to self-process almost all your receipts. For $9.95 a month, Shoeboxed will do the heavy lifting and process and categorize up to 1,000 documents a month.
- OneReceipt. For a totally free version of the same concept, try OneReceipt. Use your iPhone to take photos of receipts and then index and store the info. Android users are out of luck when it comes to an app, although they can still sign up for an account online.
- Expensify. If you have a small business, Expensify might be right up your alley, although it could work for individuals, too. The app lets users take photographs of receipts as well as import data from banks and credit cards. All that information is used to create and store organized expense sheets. Individuals can get a free account with 10 receipt scans a month. For anything more than that, sign up for a team account starting at $5 a month.
- Slice. One final receipt organizer worth noting is Slice. This app is really intended to organize online shopping by recording purchases and tracking packages. That said, it could work for your tax records, too, if you make a lot of business-related purchases online. Slice links with your email account to pull and store e-receipt data. Best of all, Slice is free.
- PowerWallet. PowerWallet is our pick for a comprehensive money management system. It links to your bank and financial accounts to track spending and organize expenses. You can also use it to create a budget and set up bill alerts. Power Wallet is free to sign up.
Once you have your receipts and financial records organized, you should be able to quickly pull up many of the numbers you need. Some apps can make it even easier to claim certain deductions.
- MileIQ. If you travel frequently for business and have an iPhone, MileIQ may become your favorite new app. All you have to do is install it, and the app automatically tracks all your travel and logs it into reports that can be used for either a tax deduction or submitted for employer reimbursement.
- MileBug. For those with an Android or Windows phone, MileBug does essentially the same thing as MileIQ. This app is available for iPhones as well and can create reports in either a CSV or HTML format.
- ItsDeductible. Offered by tax software provider TurboTax (INTU), ItsDeductible is a free way to track your donations either online or on your iPhone. The app is set up to track everything from drop-offs at the thrift store to cash donations to mileage. For donated items, the app will even give you a suggested resale value to use when itemizing deductions. TurboTax users can import data from ItsDeductible to their tax forms.
- IDonatedIt: Another useful app for tracking non-cash donations is iDonatedIt. Like ItsDeductible, this app is only available for Apple devices. In addition to recording donations and their value, iDonatedIt lets you attach photos for documentation.
- Deductr: This final app really bundles up just about everything offered by the nine apps above and delivers it in one sleek interface. Deductr is a mileage tracker, an expense organizer and a time management system all rolled into one. It will also flag you about potential deductions based on your spending. There is also one other thing deductr is: expensive. It costs $19.95 a month or $199 a year, making this a best bet for small-business owners rather than individuals.
At last, it's time to file your return, and there may be no need to pull out the laptop or fire up your desktop computer for this. Instead, consider whether you can use one of these tax apps to file your taxes and track your refund.
- H&R Block (HRB). Watch this spiffy commercial to see how the H&R Block app can have you filing your taxes in less time than it takes to get a mocha latte. H&R Block has several apps that can be used to file a return, estimate taxes or track your refund. The apps are free, but there is a fee to submit your forms. For example, sending a 1040EZ form via the app will set you back $9.95.
- TurboTax. Not to be outdone, TurboTax also has a mobile app that allows users to take photos of their W-2s and automatically fill in their tax forms. As with H&R Block, the app may be free, but there could be a cost if you want to submit your paperwork to the IRS.
- TaxACT. Another major player in the online tax prep business is TaxACT. Like its competition, the TaxACT Express app lets you take a photo of your W-2 and complete your form on your phone. One big difference is that TaxACT will both prepare and e-file simple federal and state returns for free.
- Taxsoftware.com. In the event there is no way you'll get your tax forms done by April 15, Taxsoftware.com offers an app for Apple (AAPL) users to submit Form 4868. The form gives you a six-month extension on filing your return. However, if you think you owe money, be aware that filing a 4868 doesn't give you an extension on paying, so you may still end up with late fees. But at least you'll avoid the late filing fee, which can be 5 percent of what you owe. Taxsoftware.com charges 99 cents for this app.
- IRS2Go. Finally, our list wouldn't be complete if we didn't mention the IRS's official tax app. Known as IRS2Go, this free app for Apple and Android devices will help you locate free tax preparation services, allow you to request copies of your tax records and, of course, track the status of your refund.