Imagine if you could just text Uncle Sam your 2015 tax return. While that may still be a few years away, two of the largest tax preparation companies allow taxpayers to do at least part of their filing via smartphone — and it looks like it’s catching on.
Forty percent of TurboTax customers used mobile devices in some way last year to file their taxes, nine times more than the year before, according to a company representative.
H&R Block saw a 200-percent increase in activity from mobile browsers last year versus the year before and it expects that trend to continue this year. Sixty percent of that activity came from a phone, while the remaining 40 percent was from a tablet. The company also has a mobile app.
Both companies are improving their mobile capabilities this year. Taxpayers can file any type of tax return through the H&R Block mobile app, as options go beyond just the 1040EZ form. The app allows users to upload and store tax-related documents such as W-2s and charitable donation receipts. The app will offer tax tips based on the uploaded documents, and it will ask returning users if they have documents that they used the year before. Taxpayers can also visit the company website through any phone or tablet browser and file online that way.
“We’ve had some people who have accessed [their taxes] on a browser through Xbox,” says Eric Roebuck, senior digital product manager at H&R Block. “You can start, continue and finish your taxes on any device, you can start on the app and go to the browser. The entire experience has been optimized.”
TurboTax has revamped its mobile offerings this year. It introduced its Turbo Tax Mobile App that allows taxpayers to snap a photo of their W-2 forms to automatically start the tax return process. The app will import the relevant information to their 1045A or 1040EZ tax return and file it with the IRS.
“That’s 62 million Americans who can file on mobile,” says Bob Meighan, vice president of consumer advocacy at TurboTax, citing the number of taxpayers who use one of the two forms.
For those who need assistance or have questions, TurboTax also debuted its SmartLook feature that connects live to a tax expert who can see your return (but not you). The tax expert can address your specific questions and can even virtually circle items on your return to clarify issues. TurboTax also secures the transaction when you file your return via phone or other device.
Still, Meighan recommends taxpayers to use a secure Wi-Fi connection. “I wouldn’t do it in a Starbucks,” he says.