There's a video on the Web site for H&R Block, the national chain of tax preparation stores to promote its new smartphone app, the H&R Block at Home 1040EZ (try saying that 10 times fast). In the video, a twentysomething man in trendy black glasses takes a seat in a coffee shop with his smartphone in hand. He orders a coffee while tapping open the H&R Block app.
While the waitress retrieves his caramel macchiato, our young hero uses his smartphone camera to take a picture of his W-2 form. The app automatically fills in his 1040EZ tax return with nothing but the image of his W-2. Pretty cool! By the time the waitress return with his 240-calorie cup of Joe, our man has not only prepared his tax return, but filed it with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For free!
Compare this highly fictional income tax experience with your own. How long did it take you to prepare and file your taxes last year? (The IRS estimates that the average return takes 23 hours to file, including the assembling of tax-related documents [source: Kristof].) Was it free? Did you do your taxes in a coffee shop? Did you have a smug smile on your face the whole time? Was the whole process finished in less time than the typical round of "Angry Birds?"
If not, then it's time to put the "smart" back in your smartphone. We've assembled a list of mostly free and surprisingly useful tax day apps that can help you track your expenses, organize your tax information, and even file anywhere for free, perhaps from the comfort of a coffee shop, or even better, Tahiti.