Advances in technology are helping to alleviate the hassle of filing taxes. From snapping pics of your receipts to accurately estimating the value of items you donated to Goodwill, here are five tools that’ll make preparing your returns faster and easier.
Track your miles for all your business, charity, and medical trips. Allow your phone’s GPS to track your miles automatically, or input the miles yourself if you want to conserve data. Either way, MileBug allows you to track your miles on the go, minimizing the chance that you’ll forget to make a note of your trip.
TripIt is an itinerary tracker, but it doubles as a tax tool by documenting all your travel in one place. Flight and hotel confirmation emails, dinner reservations and more are all stored in one location, which could be helpful if your travel expenses come under scrutiny.
Yes, the Internal Revenue Service has an app! And it’s useful too. This app (for iOS and Android) offers filing advice, a direct pay feature, and most notably, a refund tracker. Keep real-time tabs on the status of your return and know when the funds will be deposited into your account.
ItsDeductible, an app and web platform created by Intuit, provides you with the going rate for non-cash donations such as gently used clothing, furniture and more. The app bases its estimates of items on IRS guidelines so you can claim the maximum deduction for your charitable contributions. You can also track cash donations and mileage with this app, so that when it comes time to prepare your taxes, all the information you need about your charitable activity is sorted, filed and ready to go.
This is an especially great tool for both company and family use. Google’s popular cloud-based document sharing platform is an excellent way to stay on top of expenses, especially those incurred by groups, e.g. employees on a work trip. Anyone can access a spreadsheet from anywhere and input their costs or upload receipts to a shared file, thereby minimizing the need to save physical receipts (which can get annoying on a work trip) or chase down employees for documentation.
Shoeboxed will literally take your overflowing box of receipts and sort, scan and upload each slip of paper into a digital database. From there, you can upload the data to your tax prep software or forward the information to your accountant.
Slice Shopping isn’t a tax-prep tool, but it has functionality that makes it handy during tax season. Here’s why: Slice Shopping tracks all of your online purchases, which means it logs the receipts of everything you purchase online. Say you donate to a charity via their website, or order something from Amazon that’s tax deductible, Slice Shopping will keep a record of your activity so that come tax time, you’ll have the necessary at your fingertips.
E-statements are necessary, environmentally-friendly ways to save paper, but they can also make you feel less than friendly around tax time. Many companies only keep the past few months of electronic invoices on file, which means tracking down e-bills older than a few months can be a pain. FileThis helps to make your life easier by acting as cloud storage for all your online bills. The program calls itself a “digital filing cabinet,” and will scan the entire internet for any available statements and then store all documents in one central location.
Which tech tools or apps do you like to use to file your taxes? I’d love to know. Tell me in the comments section below.
Smart Ways to Invest Your Tax Refund
For the average American, a tax refund presents an opportunity to do something financially meaningful. (The average tax refund last year was $3,120, according to the IRS.) Maybe you want to save more for retirement, help a charity or get more financial freedom. If you’re looking for ways to get an even bigger return on your tax refund, here are a few ideas.
Contribute to your IRA
Even if you have a 401K through your employer, you can open your own individual retirement account (IRA). As long as you have a modified adjusted growth income of less than $118,000 ($186,000 for married filers), you can contribute up to $5,550 to a Roth IRA in 2017, or $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.
Invest in a share certificate
A share certificate is the safest way to save money. Unlike the stock market or other investments, share certificates are insured by the NCUSIF (it’s like the FDIC, but for credit unions), so putting your money into a share certificate is a safe financial bet. Learn more about share certificates here.
Give a tax-free gift
Donating to a cause that’s close to your heart is a great way to maximize your refund and do something good. Just be sure to save your receipts from donating, so you can deduct it next year. Really, a charitable donation is the gift that keeps on giving.
How do you plan on investing your 2017 tax refund?