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Tax filing apps gain popularity

Filing taxes through mobile apps is growing trend

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When it came time to file his taxes this year, Dewanta Grice knew there was an app for that.

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App Developer Bryan Rhea explains how the new app allows customers to file tax returns from their smartphones.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
App Developer Bryan Rhea explains how the new app allows customers to file tax returns from their smartphones.

Grice, who first used the TurboTax SnapTax app to file his 2012 returns, turned to the mobile program again this year.

In 20 minutes, Grice was able to upload a picture of his W2 form, which automatically input most of his information onto the app, and sent off his state and federal returns straight from his smartphone. Within a week, the money from his return was deposited into his bank account.

“It was simple,” he said. “It pretty much filled it out for you. I like to sit at home and do it myself. You can do it at your own pace.”

For those like Grice who have only simple returns to file, the mobile service is becoming more popular.

According to survey results released last week by Taxsoftware.com, which launched an iPad app for federal tax returns in 2011, 40 percent of taxpayers said they are more likely to file returns this year using a computer, tablet or smartphone. About 11 percent of the 5,426 national respondents said they would file taxes by paper and mail the forms directly to the Internal Revenue Service.

Taxsoftware.com is one of several companies or agencies that now offer taxpayers either tax filing services or other tax-related information through a mobile app.

Tax preparer H&R Block rolled out its first tax-filing app for Android and iPhone devices during the 2012 tax season. The app had already registered more than 100,000 downloads since early 2014, said the company’s senior product manager, Chris Jackman.

The IRS also jumped on the mobile movement with the IRS2GO app, created in 2011 and recently updated to feature a new refund status tracker. While the application doesn’t provide an outlet for tax filing, it does allow users to request tax transcripts and can navigate them to the closest tax assistance site.

At Evans-based TaxSlayer, the TaxSlayer Go app was unveiled this season to give clients another way to file taxes. In addition, the company developed last year a free refund estimator that taps into the same calculation engine used in the office, said lead developer Bryan Rhea.

The program is built for about 90 percent of taxpayers who have simple returns. About 100,000 mobile users have downloaded the refund calculator and another 10,000 downloads have been tallied for the tax-filing app, Rhea said.

“We’re trying to take everything mobile here and allow you to do your taxes wherever you are,” Rhea said. “We recognize that everything is going mobile now and we know more and more people get a phone every year. As people get more comfortable doing things like online banking and taking a picture of your W2, we’re trying to leverage our tax experience and our trustworthiness that we’ve already built up to allow them to file their taxes with their phone.”

Any unfinished filing can be saved through the app and later finished on the company’s Web site. The entire process typically takes users about 15 minutes to complete, Rhea said.

Filing federal returns is free, but through April 1, the app will charge $23.90 for the first round of state returns and $12.95 any subsequent time.

H&R Block, which also boasts an iPad app, puts all apps through a rigorous security review by outside vendors, Jackman said.

Any data loaded on the app is stored not on the app itself but in a secure server, he added.

“We use all the most-up-to-date security communication protocols,” Jackman said. “Whenever you shut down and you sign out of the app, that data leaves the phone. So if you lose your phone, someone can’t get in there and get your tax information.”

However, some local residents still prefer the tried-and-true method of getting their taxes done in-person by a professional.

“I’m still worried about identity theft,” said Rhamunda Walters, of Augusta. “I have a problem with that.”

Abigail Danns, too, remains leery of filing over her phone, although she does participate in mobile banking.

“Maybe in a few years,” she said.

2014 TAX SEASON STATS

Three weeks into the tax-filing season, the Internal Revenue Service has received one third of the individual income tax returns that it expects to receive this year. It has received (in millions):

E-filing20142013 
Self-prepared21.920.5
Tax professionals24.625.6
Total refunds40.338.0
Average refund:$3,116$2,990

Source: IRS


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