Tax Hacks 2016: The Best Tax Apps

Tax Hacks 2016: The Best Tax Apps
Photo (cc) by ben_osteen

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.

Following are the best smartphone apps to help you organize your financial records and file your tax returns.

Tracking personal expenses: Shoeboxed and OneReceipt

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With Shoeboxed, you send documents to the company, and one of its workers processes and verifies the information. The app works in conjunction with the Shoeboxed website.

A free version of Shoeboxed is available, but that requires you to self-process almost all of your receipts. For $9.95 a month, Shoeboxed will do the heavy lifting and process and categorize up to 1,000 documents a month. Other plans range up to $49.95.

For a 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, but can still sign up for an account online.

Tracking small-business expenses: Expensify

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If you have a small business, Expensify might be right up your alley, although it could certainly 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.

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Overall money management: PowerWallet

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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. Signing up with Power Wallet is free.

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. 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.

There is a free version for 40 drives per month. Paid versions cost $5.99 a month or $59.99 annually.

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. The app costs $2.99.

Organizing charitable deductions: ItsDeductible and iDonatedIt

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Offered by tax software provider TurboTax, 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 calculating your itemized deductions. TurboTax users can import data from ItsDeductible to their tax forms.

Another useful app for tracking noncash 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 $2.99.

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 your 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 if you want to submit your paperwork to the IRS.

TaxACT is another major player in the online tax prep business. 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.

Filing a late return: Taxsoftware.com

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In the event there is no way you’ll get your tax forms done by this year’s deadline of April 18, Taxsoftware.com offers an app for Apple 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 — 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.

General tax help: IRS2Go

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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 track the status of your refund.

Will you use a tax app this year? Let us know your favorites (and which ones we should avoid) in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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