February 21, 2014, 4:03 PM —
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If someone said to you, "Phones—what can't they do?," you might have been able to say, until you read this post, "File your taxes."
But now you will learn that smartphones have actually been augmented with the ability to actually file really simple taxes. Sorry about your worldview.
The app is SnapTax. It is a product of TurboTax. It is meant for people with fairly simple taxes—those who have standard full-time jobs, rent an apartment, earned less than $120,000 as a married couple, and don't have a bunch of "weird" tax situations: rental income, self-employed write-offs, foreign gigs, etc. You use your phone camera to take a photo of your W-2, your 1099 from your checking and savings accounts, and you answer a few questions about your residency and other conditions from the prior year. And then you file your taxes: federal for free, state for a small-ish fee ($14.99).
It makes sense, when you think about the trail: your employers pull your W-2 information from a database, print it out, send it to you in the mail. You are then expected to hand that W-2 form to your accountant, or input the data yourself into TurboTax or another software-based tax filing system. Tools like SnapTax cut out the most annoying part of that chain.
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So the question arises: when will most employers in the U.S. start emailing W-2 forms to employees, or making them available for download? How much longer will a service like SnapTax even need to exist, if we will eventually receive our tax information in secure but convenient form? Why do we still mail these things?
Regardless of how the future works out, take note that, even if you've had quite a few drinks on April 15, and you don't have access to a full computer in the last few hours of the day, your phone could still file your taxes. Just saying.