Online tax preparation sites and their companion mobile versions have fundamentally changed the way people file income tax in the US. Instead of writing on the handful of IRS forms and schedules you grab at the public library, you’re now almost as likely to turn to dedicated services and software that have streamlined and simplified the process. In fact, according to the IRS, 46% of e-filed tax returns for the 2020 tax year (about 72 million) were prepared using tax software or online services.
In the early days of e-filing, you used to need a full-sized computer or laptop, now you can prepare and file your taxes completely from your phone or tablet, even if your tax situation is complicated. You can also use the mobile tax app and mobile tax websites after you file and check the status of your refund.
If you’ve felt lost in using a tax app in the past, consider giving it another try this year. These services keep getting better, and if you follow our tips for mastering your tax app, you might be surprised at how easy it is to get through your return preparation. Tax software can help you get the biggest payable refund for one thing. Since these services are thorough and encourage accuracy, they can also help you avoid being audited by the IRS.
2022 mobile tax lineup
This year we reviewed eight personal tax preparation services and their companion mobile versions. Some mobile versions are dedicated Android apps and iOS apps, while others are mobile versions of the services’ websites, which you can access from any mobile browser.
Tax services that use mobile sites instead of apps are adapted to the size of the screen and the type of input required for the device being used (called responsive design). The interface and elements may look slightly different, but the functionality remains the same.
Among the services we reviewed, the following use dedicated mobile apps: TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer, and Cash App Tax (formerly Credit Karma Tax). The services that use the mobile versions of their websites are FreeTaxUSA, Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax. In our reviews of these sites, we include information about the mobile accessibility they provide and the quality of it.
In general, this year’s tax services had less innovation than last year’s advances. This could be a result of the development and support staff still working from home and dealing with other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, all the companies whose sites we reviewed were successful in updating their services for the 2021 tax year and, in some cases, making improvements. Those enhancements run on their mobile versions.
What does it cost to file taxes on your phone?
Most of the companies behind these applications offer several levels of their services. The price is the same whether you access the service on your desktop or through a dedicated mobile app.
If your financial situation is simple enough that you can file a 1040 and a few other forms and schedules, many of these services—such as TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxSlayer—offer free versions that you can use for both your federal and state income. can to enter. do. Other free services, such as Cash App Tax and FreeTaxUSA, support more advanced tax requirements, such as reporting self-employment income, capital gains, and rental income.
Does it sound like you might have trouble deciding which site you should use and at what level? You probably. But tax apps help guide you to the right choice.
In most cases, the more complex your return, the more you’ll pay. You will rarely pay more than $100, and sometimes much less. Unlike desktop software, which requires you to pay upfront, these online tax services don’t collect money until your return is ready to be filed, which means you can try before you buy. .
Also note, that if your adjusted gross income is less than $73,000 or if you are in the military, you may be eligible to use paid commercial software such as TaxSlayer for free. The IRS Free File Program allows you to submit your federal (and probably your state) taxes for free, even if you use a premium app for as long as you qualify. However, the two tax websites we rated the highest, TurboTax and H&R Block, are no longer participating in the Free Files program.
a similar approach
Whether you’re viewing them on a spacious and beautiful monitor or a smaller iPhone SE, personal tax preparation services work similarly. You don’t see official IRS forms and schedules, although some applications provide sneak previews of them, and you can always print out the finished product. Instead, they walk you step-by-step through the process of answering questions about your tax information. Since this process prevents you from entering data on any IRS form, it reduces the amount you need to know about the ins and outs of the tax code and how it has changed over the past year.
help on the way
Even if they didn’t have extensive help resources (which they do), tax websites and apps still make tax preparation easier than if you were filing using paper IRS forms and schedules. The guidance they provide can mean the difference between completing your return yourself and taking it to a professional – which can also be necessary if your financial situation is complicated. Do-it-yourself tax prep is not for everyone.
Some of the applications included in this roundup, namely Liberty Tax and Jackson Hewitt, are products of well-known, in-person tax prep companies. If your tax preparation becomes too much for you, these companies are happy that their tax professionals are completing the work you start for a fee. TurboTax and H&R Block both offer more expensive versions that connect you with tax professionals via screen share, chat or phone. You get unlimited access to the service throughout the year, which can come in handy if you file an extension or do tax planning in the off-season.
In addition to providing supplementary text when they ask questions during interviews, Tax Preparation Solutions provide many other types of help. They provide links next to some questions and other items that open a window with detailed explanations of what’s needed. They hyperlink words and phrases within questions and statements that also lead you to helping windows.
These explanations do not use the complex language that the IRS instructs. Nor do they cover topics in such excruciating detail. They have been written and revised over the years to make tax concepts as simple and understandable as possible.
Tax apps also have searchable help databases. You enter a tax concept, and they provide links to articles on the topic. They can also tell you how to get to the screen where that information should appear. They feature context-sensitive questions and answers that can further educate you before answering a question. They also provide chat, phone and email support, and host online communities.
No one service has all these options; Each has its own combination of support resources. The best of them provide more than what you need.
little difference in mobile
If you’ve ever used a tax prep service on a desktop computer, you may wonder whether it’s possible to get the same experience on a smartphone. The short answer is yes. We’re pleasantly surprised to see what the designers of apps can do. Content is narrower and doesn’t have as much room for decorative graphics and large icons, but smaller screens look remarkably similar to their desktop counterparts in many respects.
Navigation plans vary between apps, but you still move between screens by clicking buttons. You’ll have to scroll more to read the help articles and see just the screens that have tons of questions, but you can actually complete a return that includes Form 1040, Schedules A to F, and myriad other helpful forms and forms. Schedules included.
If your retreat is complicated, it will undoubtedly be easier to accomplish on a bigger screen with a full-size keyboard. We don’t necessarily recommend doing any major work using a smartphone. But no matter where you start your tax preparation, you can continue it on any other device by signing in with your username and password. So, you can do some work remotely on your smartphone and finish on your desktop or vice versa.
Those paper IRS forms may be free at the public library, but consider what your time is. In addition to saving hours and frustration, personal tax preparation applications are thorough interviewers. You can learn that you can reduce your tax liability by finding deductions and credits you didn’t know existed before. And it may more than pay for the cost of access to one of these solutions.
What about IRS2Go?
There’s another mobile tax app you might want to check out, one hosted by the Internal Revenue Service itself. IRS2Go, the official app for the IRS, includes some tools that can help with tax preparation and filing. You can check the status of your refund by entering your Social Security number, filing status, and refund amount. If you file electronically, you should be able to receive your status within 24 hours after the IRS receives the broadcast. Paper return status is usually available within four weeks.
Individual taxpayers can deposit payments directly from their bank accounts using IRS Direct Pay, a free, secure method. Credit card payments are also accepted online or by phone for a fee. The app accepts three accepted payment processors.
Another screen on the app provides three types of tax help: One is IRS Free File, described earlier. Another link takes you to a search tool that helps you find free tax help in your area if you are elderly, disabled, or speak limited English and make less than $58,000 a year. And the AARP Tax-Aid Site Locator lets you search for free tax preparation services with options nearby or remotely. AARP volunteers specifically focus on taxpayers who are 50 years of age and older or who have low to moderate incomes.
IRS2Go gives you links to additional IRS tools and contact information. If you want to apply for an online service account with the IRS, which allows you to use the same username and password to access most tax tools, you can do so through the app.
take care of safety
A note on filing your taxes with a mobile device: You need to think about security. The information on your taxes is, by definition, sensitive. All of our recommended services take security seriously, but it is important that you play your part too.
Most of us don’t think enough about the security of our Wi-Fi traffic. If at any point in the filing process you are likely to be using a Wi-Fi network that you do not control (for example at a coffee shop, library, or airport), you may need to use the VPN app for Android or VPN. should be used. App for iPhone. If you’ve never used one before, read why you need a VPN. If the VPN conflicts with your tax app, wait until you’re connected to a network you control before doing anything else with your taxes.
Most mobile tax apps and websites support multi-factor authentication, which you should set up and use as it adds another layer of security to your online account.
Another important security fact to know is that the IRS will never call or send you an email asking for personal information. The agency prefers to communicate through written letters sent through the US Postal Service.
It’s time to do your taxes!
Kudos to tax software and website developers for the Herculean work they did in the early 1990s: tame 1040. They’ve turned a vast number of IRS forms and schedules into understandable, accessible—sometimes flashy—websites and mobile apps. All you have to do is collect your documents, brew a strong cup of coffee, pick up your phone and get started.