There’s an App for That: Taxes from Your Phone

We do pretty much everything from our phones these days, turns out, taxes are no different. Accountants and techies are combining forces as new ways develop for those who choose to file from their phone. From an easier way to track and report expenses to hand-held glossaries and customer service, exploring ways to file from your phone will change the way taxes get done.

Tracking Expenses

Deducting expenses is essential for businesses owners or the self-employed. Keeping track of those expenses however can be incredibly cumbersome. Travel, meals, supplies, and mileage really add up and the ability to immediately input related data and transfer that information to taxes can keep things clear and easy when the time comes to report.

  • iXpenseIt offers password protected expense tracking which can be programmed and stored in customizable categories.
  • ShoeBoxed integrates snap technology and expense reporting into one package. The app allows users to snap photos of receipts and upload them into an organizationally customizable online platform.
  • TripCubby provides the ability to track and record mileage and other travel data. The data collected can be exported into Excel using email or automatically added into deduction categories in the app itself.

Estimates

Mobile devices are especially handy for retrieving pertinent information for those who need an estimated income tax return but lack the actual W-2. Tax Caster by TurboTax doesn’t require exact figures to calculate return estimates which enable users to fulfill tax-based qualifications or anticipate amounts of returns without having to retrieve the actual tax information this includes more in-depth tax issues such as deductions related to family size, properties, alimony, and vehicles.

Much like expense reporting for businesses, keeping track of personal donations and other charitable activities is essential. A group of accountants created the iDonatedIt app which generates an itemized list of donated items, values and the date and location at which they were dropped off. Additionally, the app supports snapped photos of the donations which can be uploaded via email.

Questions and Support

Taxes can get confusing, particularly for those with more tax materials than the basic W-2. H&R Block has created the Tax Answers app which allows for a chat-based Q&A with their representatives. The app also provides FAQ categories and checklists as well as a handy glossary.

  • Internal Revenue Code (IRC) app by LawToGo.net is aimed at professionals or filers with complex returns and contains a searchable database of the various codes determined by the IRS.
  • TaxMama is an app which generates a costume tax calendar to suit various filing needs for those with different tax forms which carry different deadlines.
  • IRS2Go, produced by the IRS allows users to check the status of their filed tax return and refund while also providing information on pertinent updates.
  • MyTaxRefund by TurboTax can also track tax refund status, determine whether the return was accepted or rejected by the IRS and produce the expected date of refund arrival.

Filing

Phones have turned actual filing into a snap. Particularly with SnapTax which fills out the 1040EZ form using a snapped photo of a W-2. The information is filled automatically and can be filed after review. However, SnapTax is currently available only for Californian 1040EZ filers.

Katei Cranford is a freelance writer and tech lover who insists on filing taxes properly and helping others do the same.

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Tips For Small Business Owners

For many sole traders or small businesses it can be difficult to find the time to maintain all paperwork on a regular basis, meaning a large amount of admin is left until it is absolutely necessary to sort out.

If this sounds like you, then you will need to make some changes to the way you work because the Inland Revenue  is set to investigate two million small businesses – slapping many with big fines if records have not been kept in order. Here are 5 tips to help your business in 2012…

Receipt
Receipt (Photo credit: BreakfastPirate)

1) Get organised, get in a routine and get sorted

Under the HM Revenue and Customs initiative ‘Business Records Checks’, small businesses and sole traders will be subject to inspection to ensure all paperwork and bookkeeping is up-to-date and correct. If they find that your business isn’t hitting their standards, you’ll be fined £3,000. And as the HMRC have been given a target of £600 million to hit over the next four years, you can be sure they won’t be taking a lenient approach when it comes to handing out fines.

Getting organised seems like an obvious first step, but if you’ve set your admin duties to one side for quite some time, you’ll have your work cut out! Admin is part of your business, so set some time aside either at the start or end of the week (or whenever your quiet period is) and focus on your paperwork and bookkeeping.

Consistency and routine are key to ensuring you stay on top of this task.

2) Keep all receipts

It is essential you keep all receipts so that you can back up business expenses. You could get 12 envelopes and write the name of each month on them and store your receipts according to when you purchased goods / paid bills. Alternatively, you could separate receipts according to source, for example ‘rent’, ‘tools and supplies’ ‘stationery’ ‘miscellaneous’.

This also applies to documentation for purchases you want to claim the VAT back on.

3) Bank and building society documentation

It’s easy to see a letter or statement from a bank or building society and think ‘I know what that is, I’ll open it later’ and before you know it, you have a stack of unopened letters to sort through. This is a habit you need to break – open the letter, check payment transactions are correct and file it away. It only takes a few minutes at the most and means you’ll save yourself a great deal of time and effort later on.

4) File your tax return on time

If you’ve kept paperwork up-to-date as outlined in the points above, you’ll find that filing your tax return will be much more straightforward to complete on time – helping you to avoid fines for being late.

5) Don’t throw anything away!

We’re not suggesting that you become a compulsive hoarder and never throw anything away; we simply mean that at the end of every tax year, you box away important financial documents like receipts, invoices and bank statements, and keep them safe in case you need them in the future. You should keep documentation of this sort for at least six years.