Smartphones can be a huge help with personal finance concerns. They can save us money and make us money, but that’s not all. They can also make tax time a lot less painful.
Here are some smartphone apps that can help you organize financial records and file a tax return.
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 DIY free version lets you snap and store up to five documents per month. The $15 monthly plan allows you to capture 50 documents per month. More robust versions add features and let you store 150 or 500 documents monthly — for $39 or $69 per month. These versions support up to three users and can be integrated with QuickBooks.
Tracking small-business expenses: Expensify and Foreceipt
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Shoeboxed can be a good app for tracking business expenses as well as personal expenses, but if you’re looking for more options, here are two more to consider.
Expensify says it can reduce the time it takes to complete an expense report by 83 percent. It, too, uses OCR scanning and automatically records data. It integrates with a number of different accounting and organization software. The app can also track mileage and works offline. You can try out Expensify for free. After the trial, it’s $5 or $9 per month per user, depending on the features you want. It’s available for both Apple and Android devices.
Another option is Foreceipt, although this app is for Apple only. It uses Google Drive to store receipts, tally expenses and track spending in budget categories. The app is free to download, and you get 50 receipts and five scans each month. If you want unlimited use of the app, you’ll need to upgrade to a pro version, which is 99 cents a month or $9.99 for a yearly subscription.
Overall money management: You Need a Budget and Mint
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You Need a Budget (YNAB) is our pick for a comprehensive money-management system. This app automatically tracks your expenses. You tell it your goals, and it automatically measures your progress. Of all the budgeting apps we’ve tried, we like this one best.
Mint is another popular option. Like YNAB, it can be used to track budgets and pay bills. The app also allows users to check their credit score.
Logging travel deductions: MileIQ and Triplog
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If you travel frequently for business and have a smartphone, 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 $5.99 a month or $59.99 annually.
Want something more robust? Check out Triplog, which is available for both Apple and Android devices. Its free version will track mileage for up to five vehicles, but it has limited ability to create IRS-compliant reports. However, the basic plan — which costs $2 per month or $20 per year — gives you those reports plus daily backup to the cloud and the ability to take photos of receipts and store that data. The professional plan costs $3 per month or $30 per year and offers web access as well as additional features.
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 mileage to drop-offs at the thrift store and cash donations. 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 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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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 is that TaxAct will both prepare and e-file simple federal and state returns free of charge.
Filing a late return: IRS Free File
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In the event that there is no way you’ll get your tax forms done by this year’s deadline — Tuesday, April 17 — 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 smartphone.
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.
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