It's that time of year again — the most dreaded date on the calendar is coming up this Sunday, and if you're still in denial about the impending deadline to file your taxes, then let your technology offer you a helping hand in getting the task done.
Yes, there's an App for That.
Your smartphone isn't just for Angry Birds and Pinterest; with over half a million apps in iTunes and more than 450,000 in the Android market, there's likely something that can assist you with everyone's least favorite task. A good start is SnapTax from Intuit, an app that works much like depositing a check using your bank's app. Just take a photo of your W2 and SnapTax will auto-fill most fields in your tax return. You'll still need to answer a few questions (and efile) but it doesn't get much easier.
Not one to be left out, H&R Block also has their 1040EZ Tax App, which works in much the same way, and Intuit also covers iPad fans with the popular TurboTax for iPad, which also features one-on-one tax advice from TurboTax experts. Once you've filed, you can use the official IRS app, IRS2Go, to check the status of your return and see tips. If you're looking for ways to make your life easier come tax time next year, then give iDonatedIt a spin; the app helps you to keep track of non-cash donations to charities while adhering to IRS requirements, so you can make sure you're filling correctly. It allows users to attach photos to document their donations as well as emailing the donation report.
Prefer to do your computing on a computer? TurboTax and H&R Block both have desktop software easily available online or in stores.
The Old Fashioned Internet
Smartphone apps aside, filing your taxes is so much easier said than done — at 71,684 pages, the U.S. Tax Code is longer than all seven of the Harry Potter books combined and not anywhere near as magical. So, what do you do if you run into problems or questions while filing? A good place to start is the IRS website, where there are information pages for individuals and businesses. They also have a page for Frequently Asked Questions, and a site that explains how to get free tax help from the IRS.
There are also tax sites for each state — for example, California's Tax Service Center. There's a pretty complete list here. Kiplinger also has a very informative site, but if you're looking for a more human touch you can find help through the IRS VITA program, or try live-chatting with a professional at TurboTax or H&R Block.
Back to Basics
Sure, these programs and services can help you file your taxes, but when it comes to handling receipts, records, documents, W-2's, pay stubs, and all the rest of the paper trail, you're on your own. With any organizational task, it's always easiest to start off on the right foot. Help yourself come tax time next year by getting some accordion files or receipt organizers, and label them by month, or by category. The Smead Tax Organizer, for example, is specifically designed to organize tax papers with pockets and blank labels - as well as a checklist and instructions for preparing on the inside cover.
It also helps to either enter them digitally into Quicken or another desktop software, or scan them using a hand-held scanner for digital storage and reference. The Neat Company has products specifically designed for organizing receipts; each scanner comes with software to help you keep track of your paperwork. Now, you'll know right where everything is — both physically and digitally — for the coming year. While it might be a bit of a bear to consider doing now, you'll certainly thank yourself come next year. By then, they might even have an app for that.