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Opinion

Find the best mobile tax filing app for iOS

By Jeffery Battersby
February 22, 2012 09:40 AM ET

Macworld - When it comes to giving Uncle Sam his due, we're dealing with an embarrassment of riches. Want to use an online service to prepare and file your tax return? You've got at least five online tax preparation sites to pick from. More comfortable with traditional desktop products? I've looked at both TurboTax Premiere 2011 from Intuit and At Home Premium 2011 from H&R Block. And if you're turning to an iPhone or iPad for an increasing number of day-to-day tasks, tax app makers have something to offer as well.

Both Intuit and H&R Block have a stable of iOS offerings aimed at satisfying on-the-go tax preparers. I've looked at the major apps from each company, with standalone reviews of Intuit's mobile tax apps for the iPhone and iPad and H&R Block's iOS apps. Here, we'll summarize the reviews of those apps, with an eye toward finding which one best suits your needs.

Both Intuit and H&R Block provide similar apps aimed at two types of tax filers--a basic iPhone app that targets anyone preparing a simple 1040EZ form and a more fully featured iPad app that covers more complex situations.

iPhone apps

Intuit's TurboTax SnapTax uses the built-in camera on your iPhone and iPod touch to help simplify the data entry process of filing a 1040EZ return. You snap a photo of your W-2, and SnapTax scans the document to pull out income and other pertinent information. After answering some personal question, you should be able to file your taxes from the app--assuming you're eligible to file a 1040EZ. Otherwise, the app directs you to the TurboTax website to finish off your return.

SnapTax's W-2 photo scan is a clever feature that worked with varying degrees of accuracy in my testing. On a square-sized W-2, the app pulled in information; unfortunately, much of it was incorrect. On a horizontally oriented W-2, SnapTax only successfully gathered information one out of 10 scans. Fortunately, you can manually correct and enter W-2 information with little effort.

More frustrating was the fact that SnapTax does not save any information if you don't create a free TurboTax account or if you are in the midst of entering data, get distracted for a moment, and the device goes to sleep. And again, if your tax return is more complicated than what the 1040EZ allows, you'll need to plan on finishing that return elsewhere. (The app does make good use of the Safari mobile browser in this instance.)

Like SnapTax, H&R Block At Home 1040EZ aims to complete your 1040EZ tax forms. Before you can use the app, you first need to create an H&R Block account. Oddly, if you have an existing account that you've created at H&R Block's website, you will not be able to use that with the app. Likewise, once you've converted the smartphone account you've created on your phone to an online account, you can no longer use it on your phone. Unlike SnapTax, you can't finish your taxes on the Safari browser with H&R Block's iPhone offering.

Originally published on www.macworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
Reprinted with permission from Macworld.com. Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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