6 Reasons to Give Your Tax Prep a Technology Boost

US News

Back in the old days of the 20th century, people hated doing their taxes with the power of a thousand suns. But now, with the advent of technology, there are a number of gadgets, websites, apps and tools that make tax preparation easier and faster.

You're probably familiar with the most well known, like TurboTax.com, and arguably the lesser well known TaxAct.com and TaxSlayer.com, and of course, there's irs.gov.

"The IRS website not only gives you all the details about everything, but it also allows for free federal filing for income below $58,000. This lists software providers that you can use to file your federal return for free," says Heidi Tribunella, clinical associate professor of accounting at the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester.

[Read: 7 Most-Missed Tax Deductions and Credits.]

But if you're only using tax preparation software or the IRS website, you may be limiting yourself. Here are six reasons to incorporate more technology into your tax prep.

You drive a lot. If you're always wishing you had calculated miles driven for business trips so you could deduct them on your tax form, check out MileBug. It's an app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that will help you track your miles. You can get it for free or pay $2.99 for a more souped-up version. Both the free and paid app use GPS tracking to help you compile those miles (56 cents a mile for 2014, MileBug.com helpfully notes).

You have a lot of paperwork to organize. You could scan your receipts. But if you have a serious amount of receipts, not every scanner is truly up for the task. Last year, Lifehacker.com's readers nominated the best scanners for going paperless, and among the top candidates were the ScanSnap iX500 ($495) and the Doxie Go ($199).

Or you could forgo buying a scanner and pay someone else to scan for you. Strange as it sounds, you can mail your receipts in prepaid envelopes to Shoeboxed.com and let the company do the scanning for you. Or you can email your documents to Shoeboxed.com, which integrates with financial tools including Evernote, Excel and Outright. Prices for the company's services range from free to $9.99 to $99.95 a month. This is more of a service for businesses, but it might appeal to a self-employed business owner who feels hopelessly mired in paperwork.

[Read: 5 Things That Could Trigger a Bigger Tax Bill .]

You really know your taxes. If you have a solid foundation of tax knowledge, Tribunella recommends Uncle Fed's Tax Board at unclefed.com. "There is a wealth of information on this site, from tax software to forms, both federal and state," she says. "It is a fairly technical site, but helpful to citizens who have some tax knowledge."

Bloomberg BNA's Quick Tax Reference App for Apple and Android phones has information on the 2011-2014 tax rates for numerous items, including standard mileage rates, corporate tax rate schedules, individual tax rate schedules, capital gains and much more.

You don't own a house or have many complications. Those with a simple tax picture might find SnapTax.com useful. It's an Intuit product -- from the company behind TurboTax -- and aims to get your taxes done quickly. Plus, federal taxes are free; it charges $14.99 for a state return.

It isn't for everyone, but the SnapTax website says it's for anyone who doesn't own a house, earned less than $100,000 in 2012 ($120,000 if you're married) and only has W-2, interest or unemployment income. You simply snap a photo of your W-2 with your smartphone, answer a few questions and e-file from your phone. The site says you can be done within 10 minutes.

[See: 9 Little-Known Ways to Pay Fewer Taxes .]

You do a lot of shopping online. Slice, available at Apple's app store for iOS and Android, is worth checking out if you do a lot of online shopping and buy items that are tax-deductible. The app analyzes your emails, looking for order information, then organizes those purchases in one spot so you can determine what's tax-deductible and what isn't. And it's free.

You need your refund quickly. The IRS's free app, IRS2Go, is available in both English and Spanish and has several useful features. Available for iOS, Android and Apple phones, the app allows you to request your tax return and includes a tool to find free tax preparation providers for those who qualify. But the real attraction for most people is the ability to track where your tax return is so you can get an idea of when you'll get your money back. That is, assuming you have a refund coming. Here's hoping.



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