Do you hear that loud ticking sound? It’s the clock running out on the April 15th IRS tax-filing deadline. Unless you plan to file for an extension, you don’t have a moment to lose. So without further ado, here are six tax prep software programs, mobile apps, and Web-based services that will help speed you toward the mid-April deadline.
Digging for deductions is one of the most time-consuming aspects of doing your taxes. To see where your money went, for example, you may need to log into multiple bank, credit card, and other business websites and download a year’s worth of statements.
FileThis, a Web-based service with an Android and iOS app, automates this tedious process. When you first sign up, the service automatically downloads months’ worth of bank, credit card, investment account, insurance, utility, and other statements. You can have the statements downloaded to your hard drive or sent to Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, or another service. Your statements are saved as keyword-searchable PDFs.
With a free account, you can connect up to six banking or other websites for statement downloads. A Premium account ($20/year) gives you up to 12 connections, and the Ultimate account ($50/year) links up to 30 sites. The Free and Premium accounts sync your statements weekly, while the Ultimate runs daily.
There’s a lot of paperwork involved in doing your taxes, such as paper receipts you’ve stuffed in file folders through the year. Some of this paper you may need to give your accountant, but more and more CPAs are looking for digital records, not paper records. A quick solution: Scannable, a free iOS app from Evernote that makes it easy and fast to turn paper documents (even with multiple pages) into keyword-searchable files that you can share via email and text and upload to Evernote. The latest version of the Evernote iOS app also includes many of Scannable’s scanning capabilities.
Quick Tax Reference
Bloomberg’s free mobile app for Android and iOS is exactly what its name suggests: a quick guide for figuring out tax rates, retirement plan limits, capital gains, and other tax-related details. The app has received good reviews from both Android and iOS users.
Intuit’s category-leading TurboTax jumpstarts the tax filing process by letting you upload a PDF of last year’s tax return to TurboTax’s cloud, which saves you from having to manually enter a lot of information. TurboTax (available as an online service, installed software program, or mobile app) can also import information from more than 1 million different sources, including banks, investment firms, and even your employer. From there, the software ‘interviews’ you to see what your filing status should be, if dependents qualify for a deduction, and more.
TurboTax’s full-featured mobile apps can save you time, too. By snapping a photo of your W2 using your Android or iOS device’s camera, for example, TurboTax automatically enters the data from that form. As you prepare your tax filing, you can switch between mobile devices and your computer, picking up on one where you left off with the other. You can start your taxes in the free mobile app and pay when you’re done via in-app purchase. TurboTax pricing ranges anywhere from nothing (for a basic tax return and federal filing) to $105 (for small business owners and sole proprietors).
TurboTax is by no means your only option for full-featured tax preparation software. Another program/online service worth considering is TaxACT, which recently earned PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for best tax software. According to the magazine, TaxACT Deluxe ($13) offers “affordability, thoroughness, and usability” along with a level of “in-depth, ubiquitous guidance” you won’t find in other tax preparation software.
TaxACT gets you rolling quickly by importing data from your previous tax return PDF. It also includes an interview process that steps you through the forms and schedules, videos that help you understand the process as you move through it, and a bookmark feature that’s useful if you need to remind yourself to return later to a form. TaxACT also gets high marks for its help content and for letting you see all the forms, schedules and documents used in your tax return as you go through the interview process. A free edition is available for basic federal returns; TaxAct Ultimate lets you file state and federal returns for $22.
H&R Block’s web-based service, desktop software, and mobile apps share a number of similarities with TurboTax and TaxACT. But it stands out in several ways by guaranteeing accuracy and identifying audit risks—which can ultimately save you a lot of time later by avoiding a potential audit. The service also provides in-person support from an H&R Block tax expert if you are audited (the latter is an additional fee) and gets kudos for its online chat and phone support. The software runs from $30 to $90.
By James A. Martin
Note: This article is not sponsored by any of the aforementioned software tools in any way—it is simply meant to inform readers of the benefits of these programs.