Tax Hacks 2017: The Best Apps to Get Your Taxes to the Finish Line


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These smartphone apps can help you with tracking tax-deductible expenses and receipts, estimating taxes, preparing and filing tax forms, and tracking a refund.

Smartphones can be a huge help with personal finance concerns. They can save us money and make us money — and also lend a helping hand at tax time.

Here are some smartphone apps that can help you organize your financial records and file your tax returns.

Tracking personal expenses: Shoeboxed and Expense IQ

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Like most expense-tracking apps, Shoeboxed lets you use the camera on your mobile device to snap photos of receipts. It goes further, though, using optical character recognition (OCR) to automatically fill in fields on an expense report stored on its website, so you don’t need to type in information. The app works with bank accounts to update your expense record.

The free version lets you snap and store up to five documents per month. The $10 monthly plan allows 50 documents captured per month. More robust versions add features and let you store 150 or 500 documents monthly — for $30 or $50. These versions support up to three users and can be integrated with QuickBooks. One caution: Reviewers like the iPhone app but say the Android version needs work.

Android users may do better with Expense IQ, a free app that helps track expenses. You can attach photos of receipts, but you must categorize them manually. Bonus: It also incorporates a checkbook register and budget planner. You can create and view customizable reports.

Tracking small-business expenses: Expensify

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Expensify won Top Ten Reviews’ top award for expense-tracking apps. It, too, uses OCR scanning and automatically records data. It integrates with bank accounts and credit cards to keep expenses updated across all platforms and works with popular contact-management program Salesforce and with the e-business tool NetSuite. A free version allows 10 scans a month. Upgrades cost $5 and $9 monthly.

Overall money management: PowerWallet

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PowerWallet is our pick for a comprehensive money-management system. The free app 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.

Logging travel deductions: MileIQ and MileBug

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If you travel frequently for business and have an iPhone, MileIQ may become your favorite new app. It automatically tracks all your travel and logs it into reports that can be used for either a tax deduction or submitted for employer reimbursement.

The free version allows you to log 40 car trips per month. The full version — unlimited trips — costs $6 a month or $60 annually.

For those with an Android or Windows phone, MileBug does essentially the same thing as MileIQ. This $3 app is available for iPhones as well and creates reports in either a CSV or HTML format.

Organizing charitable deductions: ItsDeductible and iDonatedIt

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Offered by tax software provider TurboTax, ItsDeductible (iOS only) 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 and cash donations to mileage.

For donated items, the app offers a suggested resale value to use when calculating your itemized deductions. TurboTax users can import data from ItsDeductible to their tax forms.

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. The app costs $3.

Filing your return: H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxACT

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H&R Block has several apps that can be used to file a return, estimate taxes or track a refund. The apps are free, but there might be a fee to submit your forms.

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 is free, but there might be a cost when you submit the paperwork to the IRS.

TaxAct is another major player in the online tax prep business. Like its competition, the TaxAct Express app allows you to photograph your W-2 and complete the form on your phone. One big difference: TaxAct will both prepare and e-file simple federal and state returns free of charge.

Filing a late return: IRS Free File and TaxAct

In the event that there is no way you’ll get your tax forms done by this year’s deadline — Tuesday, April 18 — you can submit Form 4868 to get a six-month extension on filing your return. There are no highly recommended apps, but you can file an extension from within the IRS’s Free File software or fill out the form online, even on a smart phone. The IRS has links and instructions.

Also, users of tax-preparation software — TaxAct, among them, will find help filing Form 4868.

A tip: If you think you owe money, be aware that filing a Form 4868 doesn’t give you an extension on paying. You still may end up with late fees. But at least you’ll avoid the late filing fee, which can be 5 percent of what you owe.

General tax help: IRS2Go

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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 track the status of your refund.

Will you use a tax app this year? Let us know your favorite (and which ones to avoid) in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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