10 Apps to Use Now to Make Taxes Easier Next Year «
Each spring, the Internet fills with information about how to organize your records and get ready for tax time. However, if you’re reading that advice only a month or two before the filing deadline, some of it may be too little too late. Instead of waiting until next spring to get organized, start now. Taxes may be the last thing you want to think about on a sunny summer day, but the current crop of mobile apps make it quick and easy to set up automated systems to capture the information you’ll need next year.
“The mobility that an application provides is invaluable in today’s world,” says Kyle Willis, vice president of Swipefin, an app that helps track business and personal expenses for tax prep. He adds that receipts can be lost and notepads forgotten, but apps make it easy to instantly record data and keep it handy.
If you’re ready to make next tax season the easiest one ever, here are 10 apps that can help you out.
Willis’ app fancies itself as the “Tinder for tax prep.” Swipefin has the ability to pull data from more than 29,000 financial institutions. Users can scroll through their transactions and swipe right to identify business expenses or left for personal ones.
“The entire purpose is to save independent contractors time and stress and money,” Willis says.
The app has a partnership with Intuit, TurboTax’s parent company. At the end of the year, data can be directly uploaded to TurboTax or sent to the user’s personal tax preparer. •Platform: Apple
Brian Berson, CEO and co-founder of FileThis, says his app acts as an electronic filing cabinet. It allows users to store and categorize documents of all kinds and makes it easy to find necessary paperwork at tax time.
“FileThis has the ability to pull in a lot of documents automatically when they become available,” he says. That could mean no effort on your part to gather items such as credit card, bank and investment statements.
While FileThis offers users cloud storage, it can also send items to other systems such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote. •Platform: Apple and Android
•Cost: Free for basic account, $2 to $5 a month for upgraded accounts
If Swipefin is the Tinder of finance apps, MileIQ is the Fitbit, automatically recording and storing data all day long.
Once people download the app, all they need to do is carry their device with them to use it. When the app senses it’s traveling in a vehicle, it comes out of sleep mode to track the route, start and stop times and other data required by the IRS for a business mileage deduction.
“The IRS requirements are relatively stringent on what you need to record,” explains Chuck Dietrich, CEO and co-founder of MileIQ.
Dietrich says he regularly hears from people who say they had no idea they drove so many reimbursable or deductible miles before using the app. In some cases, new users were finding they had more than $500 in tax deductible miles a month. •Platform: Apple and Android
•Cost: Free for up to 40 drives a month, $5.99 a month for unlimited drives
When asked what other apps could be helpful at tax time, Dietrich suggests TripIt as a good complement to MileIQ. “It’s a great way to record all your travel in real time,” he says.
The app can be used to track overall travel expenses to keep an accurate record of everything from hotel stays to airfare purchases. •Platform: Apple and Android
•Cost: Free or $49.99 a year for upgraded version TripIt Pro
Although it’s a competitor to Swipefin, Willis says if he had to recommend another app for tax prep, it would be QuickBooks.
“There’s a reason they’re so successful,” Willis says. “Tax prep is not easy. They’ve built a product that’s genuinely helpful.”
QuickBooks offers accounting software at a variety of price points. The least expensive plan is geared toward the self-employed and allows them to track expenses and mileage as well as download bank data and calculate quarterly tax payments. The Plus plan, which QuickBooks advertises as its most popular option, lets small businesses create estimates and invoices, manage and pay bills, and track inventory, among other advanced functions.
At all plan levels, the mobile app can be used with an online QuickBooks account. •Platform: Apple and Android
•Cost: Free 30-day trial, then $9.99 to $39.95 a month
Like QuickBooks, Expensify is geared toward self-employed or small business users, although it could be useful to anyone who wants to easily track expenses and mileage in the same place.
“Expensify is a great app for tracking every receipt that may be tax deductible,” Berson says.
The mobile app uses a GPS to track mileage, and it can help manage other travel as well. Data entered through the app may also be accessed through an online Expensify account. •Platform: Apple, Android, Windows and BlackBerry
•Cost: $5 a month for a team account or $9 a month for a corporate account (price per person)
OneReceipt is one of several apps that allow users to scan receipts, categorize them and store in the cloud for easy access. It can automatically pull online receipts, or you can take photos of paper ones to add to your account.
The app then indexes all spending to simplify the process of finding potentially tax-deductible expenses. For those who don’t have an iPhone, users can set up a OneReceipt account and email photos of their receipts to the service. •Platform: Apple
If you already use Evernote, the service’s Scannable app might be a logical choice for you to scan and organize your receipts. You can tag tax-related items to find them easily in April.
Up to 60 MB of storage is provided free to basic users. Those looking for more storage or features can upgrade to a plus or premium account for an annual fee. •Platform: Apple
•Cost: Free for basic account, $24.99 to $49.99 a year for upgraded accounts
While OneReceipt and Scannable only operate on Apple iOS systems, Scanbot is available for Android devices as well. Scans taken by the app can be sent to cloud storage systems such as Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive.
Use it to scan and upload charitable donation receipts, medical bills and work-related invoices. Pay for the pro edition to get features such as text recognition, smart file naming and document editing. •Platform: Apple and Android
•Cost: Free or $4.99 for upgraded version Scanbot Pro
You don’t have to be self-employed or a small business owner to benefit from ItsDeductible. Offered by TurboTax, the app lets users track donations year-round and calculates a value for donated items that can be used for itemized tax deductions.
“It’s a simple app to record charitable deductions,” Dietrich says.
When tax time rolls around, there’s no more guessing exactly what you took to the local thrift store in the August and how much it was worth.