Although many taxpayers still prefer getting their taxes done with the help of a certified accountant, those that have tried a tax program before unanimously agree that this solution does indeed turn tax return preparation into child’s play. Ever since many tax software providers started offering cloud-based products as well, taxpayers can even enjoy the benefits of easy tax filing on the go via dedicated tax prep apps, too.
In fact, they are the epitome of convenience as not only do they typically provide all the features found in their browser-based counterparts but they are also equipped with extras that can reduce the time spent on tax preparation even further. And if that’s not enough, these applications always come free of charge and are available for everyone that decides to create tax returns with an online solution.
The Best Mobile Tax Filing Apps
When it comes to selecting the best app for filing taxes, it’s best to keep two things in mind. Firstly, regardless of which tax software company is chosen, its program will likely be at least mobile browser-compatible. And secondly, only the biggest service providers have dedicated tax prep apps that come with complementary features and/or advanced security.
One of the best things about TurboTax’s app isn’t that it is a perfect complement to every TurboTax Online product but instead that it includes all the benefits of its desktop counterpart, whether that is the user-friendly interface or the thoroughness of the interviews.
Granted, it does lack the Tax Tools tab that contains additional tools like detailed summaries of federal and state returns or the option to share forms with a dedicated expert, but alternatively it comes with the option to capture W-2s with the phone’s camera to then import data from that form quicker. TurboTax’s app can even seamlessly import data from Intuit’s other application, ItsDeductible and is also capable of connecting users with a live CPA should they need further assistance – although this latter feature is only available when paying an extra fee. Reinforced account protection is available with the app by default, though, including fingerprint or FaceID authentication on devices that are equipped with biometric authenticators.
Note that even though TurboTax’s app is available for free to all TurboTax Online users, the app only supports devices that run Android 5.0+ or iOS 10.0+.
At first glance H&R Block’s application is little more than the desktop H&R software adapted to mobile screens but, actually, there are some major differences. For starters, the app only handles returns, meaning that personal settings and any previous returns are only available if you download a separate app, MyBlock.
However, unlike the desktop version – which can only autofill W-2s that are stored online – the app can seamlessly import data from printed W-2 forms by capturing it with the mobile device’s camera. In fact, the app is actually safer than the desktop program since not only does it auto-logout after a certain period of inactivity but it also prevents screenshots from being taken. Thankfully, when it comes to everything else the app and the software are the same, meaning that none of the most important features are restricted.
H&R Block’s application runs on older Android and iOS devices as well as on tablets manufactured by Amazon.
Not only is TaxAct’s mobile application available for free to all users of any of the company’s online products but it’s also the prime example of how to do a tax prep application. The app comes with all the features that the online program has, whether that is the option to create multiple returns or to contact the tax experts of the company by live chat. TaxAct Express is also equipped with the W-2 capturing feature and the ability to lock the app with the device’s built-in biometric authenticator tools. However, the app is even secure without the use of biometric authentication as it sports the same outstanding security that the online software does, providing two-factor authentication and an activity logger by default.
Though the app can be installed on any Android and iOS device, keep in mind that there may be some compatibility issues with phones that run older operating systems. If that’s the case, then the only option is to switch to the mobile-compatible version of the website that, thankfully, is a perfectly downsized replica of the app.
Best Tax Software of 2020
Tax Prepping on the Go
If you have already familiarized yourself with the chosen tax prep software, then luckily learning how to use the app version won’t take too long. The reason for this is simple: these apps are often replicas of the desktop-based equivalents, utilizing an almost-identical overall appearance, ease of use, or list of available features. Tax prep apps are particularly advantageous because of their use of cloud-based technology, meaning that because data is continuously saved once it’s entered users can freely switch from the desktop software to the app and vice versa at any time with no loss of work.
Many tax prep apps even add in some especially convenient features to perfectly complement the main software. This includes push notifications to alert users of important events like filing deadlines or the status of returns and extra security settings with fingerprint or FaceID login or the prevention of screen capture. However, by far the best complementary feature of tax preparation applications is the option to capture W-2s with the phone’s camera and then have them processed by the app to transfer the data automatically, significantly reducing the time needed for manual data entry.
Mobile App vs Desktop Software for Tax Preparation
With the exception of some extra features, there are little to no differences between apps and their software counterparts. In fact, in most cases apps are completely interchangeable with desktop software and the mobile website versions of the same programs. Despite that, however, it’s better to consider a tax prep app as complementary to the main program rather than a replacement of it.
The reason for this is because some apps – TaxSlayer’s, for example – only concentrate on the most important tax topics, leaving taxpayers that have more complex tax situations with no choice but to use the desktop software to complete returns. Also, return preparation still requires a lot of manual data entry that, let’s face it, just isn’t as convenient on mobile devices.
As a complementary solution, however, the app is still a helpful tool. As already mentioned, the app can be used to capture printed W-2s, which can then be corrected and completed in the desktop software. Additionally, apps can be used to better organize your time spent on filling out returns by, for instance, answering simpler tax-related questions in the app and leaving the more complex topics to be dealt with in the desktop software later.
How Tax Prep Apps Help You Out
Since both desktop tax programs and their app counterparts use the same database, they also share features like straightforward questionnaires and short, helpful explanations that these solutions are known for. Although this basic level of support is usually enough for those who aren’t filing more complicated returns, there may be instances when there is no other option but to turn to the staff of the app’s provider. Thankfully, users can turn to the chosen company’s tax experts in the same way that they would if they used the desktop version of the software.
However, the same set of support options also means that unless the tax company has a special feature that allows you to start a live chat with a tax professional – which may only be available during tax seasons – the only way to get live help is via email or by phone. However, there are special cases like that of TurboTax, which also provides SmartLook; this feature allows users to connect to a certified CPA and get real-time help via onscreen instructions.