If you have really simple taxes and you want to file them in the easiest way possible, TurboTax SnapTax 2012 gets the job done in just 10 minutes. This smartphone app snaps a photo of your W-2, asks you a few simple questions, then e-files for you. You're done. The catch is it charges $25 to e-file. If you prefer to free-file, skip the phone app and use TaxACT Free Edition 2012 with your tablet or computer instead.
Fastest way to do your taxes. In tests, nothing's faster than SnapTax. Period. The app promises to do your taxes in 10 minutes, and that's "no joke," says Macworld's Jeffery Battersby. He finished his daughter's taxes -- "which consisted of two W-2s and some basic personal information" -- with time to spare.
The key is the photo-snap. SnapTax has you shoot a picture of your W-2 with your phone, reads the numbers and flows them into your tax form. There's no typing, or not much; sometimes SnapTax reads the numbers wrong and testers end up typing them in anyway. After you take the photo, the app is dead simple, testers say. It asks you a few easy questions and you hit "File." That's really all there is to it.
If you do get stuck, two big buttons take you to FAQs and an email link for expert help. You won't find those on SnapTax's rival, H&R Block 1040EZ for Smartphone 2012 (free download and e-file), says PCMag.com's Kathy Yakal. Most important, SnapTax works without crashing, which user reviews say is a real problem with Block's app.
Photo-snap can botch your W-2. Always double-check your W-2 numbers, experts advise, because SnapTax sometimes reads the photo wrong. "W-2s come in two orientations, portrait and landscape," Battersby explains. In his test, "SnapTax was able to capture the data in the portrait oriented form without a problem, but was unable to do so with the landscape oriented form. This is not just a SnapTax problem, as every iOS tax app I've tried has the same issue." In Salvador Rodriguez's test for the Los Angeles Times, SnapTax misses a field on his W-2. Plenty of users report the same problems.
You can fix mistakes by hand, but beware "fat-fingered iOS typing," Battersby says. Always check everything before filing. Math mistakes are almost nonexistent with tax software, but an iTunes user reports that SnapTax made one. "I paid the $25 [to file] because it said I was getting a larger amount than the others," he says. Turns out SnapTax had just misplaced a decimal, but "the app alerted an inconsistency only after I paid."
Math errors aside, you may not get your biggest refund with SnapTax. It can file only simple 1040EZ and 1040A returns, which don't cover all of the deductions you'll find on the long-form 1040. Still, most users are thoroughly pleased with SnapTax. It earns perfect scores in hundreds of reviews at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.com.
For simple taxes only. SnapTax covers more taxpayers than H&R Block's smartphone app, which can file only a 1040EZ. If you have kids or student loans, you can't use the Block app if you want to deduct them. But SnapTax can handle both 1040EZ and 1040A this year, so children and student loans are covered.
Still, that leaves lots of deductions SnapTax can't handle. If you own a home, have investments, have medical bills to deduct, are retired or self-employed, that's all beyond SnapTax's scope. Try to enter something too complicated, and the app will tell you to finish on the TurboTax website at a higher price.
Not that SnapTax is exactly free. "Filing a return using the app costs $25, about half of my daughter's expected refund," Battersby says. That covers both federal and state returns. You can't print from the app and mail it yourself, either. You could transfer your SnapTax return to TurboTax's website and file your federal taxes for free that way, although state will cost extra. But in that case, notes Battersby, why not just start on the website in the first place?
SnapTax works with iPhone, iPod Touch and Android smartphones. You can use it on your iPad or Android tablet, but the W-2 photo-snap feature won't work.
Review Credibility: Excellent Battersby does his daughter's simple tax return with TurboTax SnapTax, and finds it quick and easy. However, the W-2 photo-snap feature doesn't always get the numbers right, and the $25 cost to file from the app takes a big bite out of the tiny refunds that many basic filers expect.
Review: Review: Intuit TurboTax SnapTax, Jeffery Battersby, Feb. 28, 2013
Review Credibility: Excellent Yakal tests TurboTax's SnapTax and likes it better than H&R Block's phone app, but doesn't give SnapTax an Editors' Choice nod. She says its $25 price "seems excessive" considering its limited abilities; after all, you can get the entire online TurboTax Deluxe program for $30.
Review: TurboTax SnapTax (for iPhone), Kathy Yakal, Feb. 20, 2013
3. Los Angeles Times
Review Credibility: Very Good Rodriguez does his taxes with smartphone apps from TurboTax and H&R Block, or tries to. Block's app won't even let him get started; it asks questions to see if he qualifies, and his tax situation turns out to be too complicated. TurboTax's SnapTax does let him snap a photo of his W-2 but misses a field, and when he tries to add a 1099 for miscellaneous income, it kicks him over to the TurboTax website.
Review: Testing the TurboTax and H&R Block Tax Apps, Salvador Rodriguez, Feb. 23, 2013
Review Credibility: Good Although it gets a suspect number of glowing reviews -- users who have written only one are a dead giveaway -- most users here give TurboTax SnapTax an average rating of 4.1 stars out of 5. They say it really does make filing simple tax returns quick and easy, although the W-2 photo-snapping feature frequently misses numbers or gets them wrong. The photo-snap won't work at all with tablets, which irritates several users who bought the app on the Kindle Fire app store.
Review: TurboTax SnapTax, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good Although its nearly perfect rating appears to be inflated with some fake reviews, TurboTax SnapTax 2012 still beats H&R Block 1040EZ for Smartphone in user posts here. More than 350 users rate the current version. Several report mistakes with the W-2 photo-snap, but overall they're pleased to have filed their taxes so easily.
Review: TurboTax SnapTax, Contributors to iTunes, As of March 2013
6. Google Play
Review Credibility: Good More than 18,500 users rate TurboTax SnapTax here, but there's no way to see how many of them used the current version. Most give it a perfect 5 stars. The worst reviews come from those who were annoyed that the app charges $25 to file when the TurboTax website lets you file for free.
Review: TurboTax SnapTax, Contributors to Google Play, As of March 2013