Taxes are the sort of thing no one wants to think about, but everyone has to deal with on an annual basis. Even if you’re getting a refund, it can be a pain to fill out the paperwork, and you may have questions you have no idea how to answer, short of trying to get an appointment with a CPA — good luck with that this time of year.
Thankfully the help you need is quite literally within your grasp, as your iPad can get your taxes done fast and help you get started now on getting organized for next year.
ASK A CPA Tax Answers Free
This app has three main functions. The first is a searchable archive with answers to hundreds of questions, organized into categories such as Charitable Deductions, IRAs, Late Filing Penalties, the Affordable Care Act, and even how to report your Gambling Wins & Losses.
The second is the ASK A CPA feature, which allows you to submit your personal tax questions to a CPA. In order to submit your question you will have to fill out a profile with your contact information and agree to the terms and conditions, reminding you that an indemnification clause is in effect and you can’t hold them responsible for the information you provide.
The third section helps you to find a local CPA to consult. As with the ASK A CPA feature, you’ll need to fill out a profile with your contact information and agree to the terms and conditions.
While you should still do your own research or contact a tax professional in person if your situation is particularly tricky, the ASK A CPA app is a good starting point. The app does have ads at the bottom of the screen, but they aren’t too distracting from the actual tax information.
H&R Block Tax Preparation 2014
Free, iPad, in-app purchase required to file
This app can do everything for you, up to and including filing your federal and/or state tax returns. It’s well laid out, with clear access to federal and state forms, information about how to get in-person audit support, tax filing resources such as extensions and amended returns, plus a link to tax law videos on YouTube and a search box that can help you navigate to what you need to know.
You can start the process by importing last year’s return, or signing in to your account if you used H&R Block to complete last year’s return. The step-by-step instructions are very clear and practically idiot-proof, just answer the questions and the app will do all of the rest. Prices range from $29.99 for a state return to $84.99 fora Deluxe Federal and one State Return.
How to Do Your Taxes
This app won’t help you file your taxes, but it just may demystify the process for you. It includes 23 short videos plus additional resources such as articles, spreadsheets, and Word documents, all organized into chapters: Basic, Best Practices, Deductions & Credits, Tax for Small Business, Getting Help, and a Conclusion.
While this app doesn’t have the “quick fix” appeal of Ask a CPA, it goes beyond the basics and helps truly educate you on all of the basics you need to know about income taxes, both for yourself and your business if you own one. The videos are short and engaging, generally 2-3 minutes in length, and cover a good amount of information without being overwhelming or boring.
The app is completely free, and doesn’t have any ads or in-app purchases to detract from the overall design of the app. Highly recommended for those who want a little more than just a quick “file my taxes and be done with it” sort of experience.
There’s something to be said for going direct to the source, and IRS2Go is the official app of the Internal Revenue Service. While you can’t actually file your tax return through the app, you can check on the status of your refund, find free tax preparation resources, get helpful tips, and even follow the IRS on social networks like Twitter and YouTube.
Getting your refund status is as simple as entering your Social Security number, filing status, and refund amount. All you need to do to find tax help is enter your zip code and choose; the app then gives you the contact information necessary to schedule an appointment.
The app is very low tech and frill-free, and it doesn’t contain any information that can’t be found at the IRS website. But the app does have the advantage of making that information a little easier to find, so that you don’t have to wade through a ton of stuff just to find out when you’re getting your tax refund.
If you need to track your mileage for any reason, be it for reimbursement for work or unreimbursed mileage for charitable purposes, MileBug is worthy of consideration. You can enter your most-used destinations and save them to your favorite trips, or you can enable the GPS tracking within the app and make everything automatic–no more worrying about writing down your mileage every time you start your car.
Reporting is a breeze, with easy date ranges and other criteria to make sure that you don’t miss a single reimbursement. Backing up your data is accomplished via iTunes File Sharing or through the cloud backup feature, which you can unlock with an in-app purchase of $0.99. That way all of your data is backed up to the cloud, so that your data will always be with you, even when you change devices–no more excuses for not tracking your mileage.
Similar to How to Do Your Taxes, MyBlock is designed to be a companion throughout the tax filing process, with a refund calculator, status checker, tax checklist, updates on changes that affect this tax year, and a glossary that defines hundreds of tax terms.
The tax estimator is quick and easy; just enter your filing status, number of dependents, income, and expenses, and the app will estimate your income and tell you which H&R Block product is right for you, or help schedule a personal appointment at an H&R Block office in your area.
If you already have an account within the app, you can also access last year’s tax return or upload documents as you receive them, in order to simplify the filing process. There’s also a searchable tax help center with hundreds of articles and terms on a wide variety of tax topics.
It’s a great resource whether you’re already an H&R Block client, though of course you’ll get more out of this companion app if you sign in to your existing account.
TaxCaster – Free Tax Refund Calculator
Intuit’s TaxCaster is quite similar to other tax refund estimators on the app store, but is more highly recommended than the others due to the simple, appealing design, better overall organization, and ease of use.
Rather than requiring you to go through screen after screen to get the information you’re looking for, everything is contained to one page. You have your choice of sliders or standard text boxes to answer questions about your income and expenses for the year, and the amount you owe or will get back is shown in the top left corner of the screen.
The only ad within the app is a relatively small box on the lower right corner that advertises the Turbotax iPad app; a small “price” to pay for this excellent (and free) refund estimator.
TurboTax Tax Preparation – Complete and Efile Your 2014 Taxes
Free, Universal, in-app purchase required to file
If you like simple, graphical interfaces, TurboTax is the app for you. The app starts by asking you to drag life events that apply to you to the lower part of the screen: Do you own a house? Are you married? Do you have dependents? Is your tax situation complicated?
Depending on your answer to that first question, the TurboTax app will suggest a particular product and invite you to create an account. Prices range from free for a simple 1040EZ up to $99.99 if you own a small business and are self employed. Getting started is free; you only pay if you actually file your return using the app.
After some initial difficulty in creating an account, we found TurboTax Tax Preparation to be even easier to use than the H&R Block app, perhaps because of its less cluttered design. This is a subjective preference, but of all of the tax preparation apps tested for this article, TurboTax receives our highest recommendation.
TaxACT 2014 Free Federal Edition
Free; $9.99 Deluxe Version Available
Like the other tax preparation apps included in this article, TaxACT can help you file your taxes from your iPad. Unlike the other apps, however, the design for TaxACT is more like a website than a native iOS app. Navigation isn’t quite as clear, and at times you may have to scroll through several screens in order to reach the end of a topic and get back to the main Life Events page, for example.
TaxACT is very thorough, however, with one of its main strengths being the availability of reference information on the same page instead of it being tucked in a separate glossary section. However, advertisements for “deluxe” federal return for $9.99 via in-app purchase do pop up quite often, in a rather annoying fashion.
Recommended if you already have a TaxACT account or used the app to prepare last year’s return (becayse logging in will give you access to your previous return); otherwise you would probably be better off sticking with either TurboTax or H&R Block apps.
While it may not help you too much with this year’s taxes, XpenseTracker can help you get organized and make sure that filing next year’s return will be as easy as possible. This app tracks your expenses, mileage, and income, and keeps them all in once place.
While it may not be much to look at, XpenseTracker is well designed and carefully thought out. It keeps track of the current IRS mileage reimbursement rate for you, so that you don’t have to. You can create separate logs based on a date range or for specific organizations.
For expense tracking, XpenseTracker can handle all of your paper receipts; just take pictures of them and add them right in the app. You can also attach files from your device clipboard or from an email as well.
This is a no-frills app, but that’s a good thing. It’s customizable so you can have the accounts you use most on the home screen of the app. You can hide any fields that you don’t use, or add your own. You can use the suggested categories or create your own. And cloud save is included, no need to “unlock” it via an in-app purchase.