It’s 2018, and the phone you carry in your pocket is more powerful than the computers accountants used two decades ago.
But can you use your phone to file your taxes?
How do the apps stack up against the software? We’ll explain below.
What Did We Want From A Tax-Filing App?
Filing taxes isn’t easy. By the end of tax season, I have a half-inch thick manila file folder with all my tax documents. Since I have more complicated taxes, I wasn’t expecting to file my taxes from an app.
However, I wanted to see how quickly I could use the app to claim W-2 income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, The Child Tax Credit, and The Saver’s credit.
I thought I might be able to do that in less than 20 minutes on both apps.
Did They Live Up To Expectations?
Unfortunately, neither TurboTax or H&R Block made tax-filing from the app super-easy. I got the job done (in under 20 minutes), but I personally found it harder than filing from the computer. Neither app managed to read in the information from my W-2 form, so I spent a long time tapping in my information.
Plus, I had to answer question after question on my phone. This wasn’t too bad, but both apps seemed to load slower than their respective parent websites.
That said, the test wasn’t a complete loss. Both apps had positives that are worth noting.
What Worked Well?
Both TurboTax and H&R Block did a great job synchronizing with the online platforms. If you do some heavy lifting on their respective websites, you can use the apps to “fill in the gaps” while you’re on the go.
Both apps made it easy to do everything you can do on the website. That is to say, I could easily pick up where I left off when I signed into my TurboTax or H&R Block online profiles. This includes connecting to brokerages, using depreciation calculators and more. As long as you have a strong wifi signal, you can get your taxes done.
TurboTax definitely outperformed H&R Block on the usability front. It completely transferred the “Q&A” style over to the app. H&R Block also included Q&A, but the buttons weren’t as easy to click, and it crammed more information into every screen.
What Still Needs Work?
The biggest let down with the app was that they both failed to read my W-2 forms (and my 1099-MISC form). I spent several minutes trying to take the picture with just the right lighting, so the apps would read in the numbers.
Both apps failed. Lest you think the failure is the result of my ineptitude, I constantly use mobile check deposit from an alternative banking app which I think proves that my hand is steady enough to take a decent picture.
Should You Use An App To File Your Taxes?
In good news, you can use an app to file your taxes. Both TurboTax and H&R Block have decent apps with accurate calculations.
But I see no reason to use the app over the online software. Neither app offers a lower price than the online software, and I don’t think an app is any more convenient than a laptop.
If you need to enter tons of forms, skip the app, and use the best software for your circumstances.
How will you be filing your taxes this year?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.