Guest post by Eva Rosenberg, author of Small Business Taxes Made Easy, 2nd Edition.
What’s the big news in the world of tax preparation this year? The prevalence of mobile apps, the expansion of data imports and free. Lots of free answers and advice.
Mobile efiling tools are limited. Expect capabilities to grow rapidly. Presently, only 1040EZs can be filed using your iPhone or Android device in the H&R Block and TurboTax apps. CompleteTax expects to launch their app at the end of January. TaxAct offers full functionality via iPads. Simply scan your W-2s with your smartphone or iPad and voila! Your 1040EZ is filed. Use your smartphone to track your refunds.
Other tools include TaxActs glossary, tax preparation checklist, tax tips, and the status of your tax return; CompleteTax will hold your data in their online database if you dont qualify as an EZ filer; TurboTax lets you ask questions and use a tax return checklist; H&R Block provides answers to questions, lets you estimate your taxes even schedule an appointment with a local office.
Importing Is Like Magic
According to Bob Meighan, vice president of Consumer Advocacy at TurboTax, they can import more data from over 400,000 financial institutions and employers, from W-2 Express, all sorts of 1099s and 1098 forms, charitable deduction information from ItsDeductible, accounting data from Quicken, QuickBooks and Mint.com as well as any data that is in a .cfx or .txf format. His goal was to ensure that taxpayers use the fewest keystrokes possible to complete their tax returns.
All the tax return services all users to import PDF versions of their major competitors tax returns and data from W-2 Express and several payroll services. H&R Block, TaxAct and CompleteTax import investment income and trading transactions from Gainskeeper and several major brokerages, like Schwab, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch, among others. H&R Block has beefed up their imports by adding more payroll providers and financial institutions, as well.
Speaking of prior year returns, when you use the same service year-after-year, they will retain copies of your tax files. CompleteTax says you can access the most recent few years yourself. But if you need older years, they probably have them in their archives. In fact, if you are an existing customer (with username and password) and have ever started a tax return, they might have saved that years data even if you never finished the tax return. This is great for people who were interrupted due to illness or other distractions.
TurboTax purges their files of incomplete returns. But they will have your completed returns handy when you need them.
This article was originally published in MarketWatch.