While Facebook’s Filing to Go Public, the Rest of Us Are Filing Taxes

Published on February 1, 2012
by Lauren Goode

That’s right: While Facebook is preparing to file an S-1 with the SEC (my boss Kara Swisher chronicled here just how painful that wait can be), the rest of us are thinking about less exciting filings. Like tax returns. And for most Americans, that paperwork doesn’t include words that rhyme with illions.

But fortunately, there are a few free tax apps that can help you with that paperwork.*

Before you get started, you might want to use a tax calculator to estimate how much you’ll get in returns … or how much you’ll owe. The TurboTax TaxCaster is scientifically unproven to either make you shout aloud with joy in the middle of the office or cause your stomach to drop faster than if you were riding this. The TaxCaster app is free on iOS and Android mobile devices as well as online.

TurboTax's iPad app

For preparing your tax paperwork, there’s now a TurboTax iPad app. Intuit actually launched the app last March, but it was too late in the season to really gain traction. The iPad app works even when you’re offline, so you can prepare your tax paperwork from almost anywhere.

This year, TurboTax, which says more than 70 percent of its customers now file online, has added some new features to the iPad app. First, it has hired 700 CPAs and tax attorneys nationwide to be on call for questions that app users might have.

Also, filers can now import data and forms from about 400,000 employers and financial institutions.

Lastly, the app’s keypad has a new user-friendly design. The large, optimized keypad is a good idea. Even when your eyes start to glaze over, you can’t miss the keys.

As with the rest of TurboTax’s mobile apps, it won’t cost users anything to download the iPad app and punch in their information, but users will be charged through iTunes when they go to actually e-file through TurboTax. At the low end, TurboTax Deluxe costs $29.99.

H&R Block has introduced a new mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that allows filers to complete a federal 1040EZ form and state return by snapping a photo of their W-2 forms (TurboTax’s SnapTax does this as well.) The service is free through February 29th.

Filers with more complex tax returns can use the H&R Block iPad app to complete those additional forms.

H&R Block’s smartphone app also aims to help users locate a nearby H&R Block office, estimate a tax refund, check the status on a refund, and decipher various tax terms with a glossary.

Like TurboTax, H&R Block is now offering free extended support for taxpayers, through a Tax Answers program. And if you’d rather have your tax returns filed for you through video conferencing, H&R does that, too, through its new Block Live service.

Keep in mind that if your gross adjusted income last year was $57,000 or less, you can qualify for free e-filing through the IRS’s Web site. And as Ina Fried pointed out a year ago at this time, the IRS has a mobile app for iPhone and Android phones that lets users track their refund status.

*This is the sentence in which I feign enthusiasm over tax season.

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