Thursday, February 20, 2014

Get Ready for Tax Season Digitally / With online tools and apps, you can digitize your tax preparation this year and regulate your spending for the year ahead.

KARA KAMENEC for PC Magazine writes: Tax season is upon us and this year the digital route is more popular than ever. Over 100 million taxpayers filed online last year using authorized e-file providers, which is no surprise given the reduced risk of error and faster refunds. Now, as digital filing continues to become the norm, more and more companies are expanding digital services to provide additional support for personal finance and tax-filing needs.
With products ranging from receipt scanners to automated expense reporting, tax preparation alone is a $9 billion industry that employs over 300,000 workers and over 100,000 businesses. Threatening the industry is digital personal finance tools, such as TurboTax $29.99 at Intuit and H&R Block$29.95 at H&R Block, which continue to rise in popularity. And while some might still have concerns about security and identity protection, the practice of e-filing is largely secure at this point.
So where to start? Luckily, this year, there are more digital tools than ever to make your e-filing a clean, safe, and paperless option. If you already have your tax software but are scrambling to get your finances in order, check out these digital tools and apps to help you with the tax-prep process. 

Tools to Digitize Receipts and Tax Documents
EvernoteEvernote allows you to capture, store, organize, and access information across multiple digital platforms. The digital software streamlines all of your information, making it accessible via the desktopor mobile devices, like Android andiPhone. Easily scan or upload everything from receipts to tax forms and organize all materials into notebooks. Keep all of your materials in one place with separate Evernote notebooks such as '1099 Documents, Receipts, and Donations.
Onenote tripSimilar to Evernote, Microsoft OneNote helps you stay digitally organized for tax season by allowing you to digitally store and organize receipts and other important documents. The software allows you to access all of your items on all of your devices, including tablets, computers, and phones. OneNote also provides a good platform to make and keep tax prep information that will help you file, such as an end-of-the-year checklist or a list of tax-related changes.
FileThisIf you're looking to digitalize your filing cabinet,FileThis is an automated solution. The Web service files your documents online and makes them available from your mobile devices and desktops. As a digital mailbox, FileThis provides an automated system that accesses your online accounts to download necessary files, such as bank statements, bills, receipts, and insurance documents. One collected, your documents are filed with your existing cloud services, such asDropbox, Box, Evernote, and Google Drive. Documents aren't just stored, they are filed intelligently. FileThis can read the content of your documents to determine important dates, name your document, and match the document to other relevant documents. It's also one of the only Web-filing systems that allow you to organize anything from certification documents to bitch certificates, concert tickets and more.

Finance and Tax Apps
ASK A CPA Tax Answers Free
Whether you're filing your taxes for the first time or tenth time online, it's likely you'll have some questions. Rather than guess, turn to ASK A CPA for answers. This handy app is a tax and business resource for individual and business filers. It provides up-to-date answers to help you prepare your tax returns in nearly 100 tax categories, from student loans to Keogh plans, and answers some of the most common tax question. The app will also help you locate an accountant by ZIP code, if you're looking for additional support.
Showboxed App
Shoeboxed is a cloud-based receipt-management service that helps you organize your receipts and keep track of business and personal expenses. Founded in 2007, the company is an industry leader in e-receipt management and provides a hassle-free way to digitally store, manage, and organize receipts. To get your receipts onto the cloud sever, you may mail paper receipts in pre-paid envelopes, email receipts, or upload receipts digitally through your browser, computer, or apps. Receipts are then digitally categorized into an IRS-accepted format you can access online.
Expensify integrates with standard documenting programs, such as Dropbox, Scan Genius, and Evernote to import receipts specifically for expenses. The program can automatically import expenses from major credit cards, use auto-categorization to organize expenses, and create custom expense reports. The program provides an excellent method to visualize your spending across a variety of criteria using colorful charts and graphs. The Expensify app features SmartScan technology to automatically create expenses directly from images of your receipts. These new expenses are then digitally matched to imported financial transactions to eliminate manual entry.  
Mileage Log+
Mileage Log
Mileage Log+ makes it easy to track, manage, and write off travel expenses. Automatically calculate distance with a start and end location and save frequent trips for easier tracking. Organize miles tracked with tax-specific categories, such as "B" for business and "P" for personal. The app is designed for IRS compliance: Data can be emailed with Excel-compatible reports (PDF or CSV) or data can be backed up and synced with Dropbox.
MileBug allows you to easily track your miles on a variety of devices and view your mileage with on-phone GPS tracking. You can get mileage reports in HTML and CSV formats and backups can be emailed to yourself or found in iTunes File Sharing.
Slice App
If you're worried about missing a receipt, you could possibly writ off, Slice is an excellent solution. The app and platform sync with your email inbox to automatically pull in, manage, and store receipts. Come tax season, your receipts can be accessed from a single place or downloaded to a .CSV file.
Receiptmate allows you to scan and keep track of receipts in Evernote. Similar to how you would deposit a check from your phone with Receiptmate, you take a picture of the receipt, and confirm the correct information is retrieved by highlighting or typing in the receipt name, tax, total, and "deposit" the receipt into Evernote.
The app eliminates some of the usual hassles that come with iPhone scanning such as digitally auto-scanning the receipt in the app after you take a picture of it, reducing the amount of time you need to hold the phone over the receipt, and allowing you to swipe a finger over the receipt picture to input required fields instead of typing in names and amounts with your keyboard. Receipts can be digitally organized with special tagging options and later condensed into itemized reports that download as PDF files.

Online Finance and Budgeting Tools
Mint is a free personal finance platform that helps you digitally put all your accounts in one place. Once you sign up, Mint can automatically pull in your financial information into one, easy-to-understand platform. Mint will digitally file all of your transactions organized by standard or self-imputed categories and display activity in different views to easily track and understand your spending. Mint offers dozens of other features which all focus on smart tracked spending and investments, better budgeting, and automated financial and security alerts to help you avoid fees. 
Mint Accounting
Once tax season rolls around, Mint will provide more than enough information to properly find the financial information you need, notify you when your refund arrives, and help you grow or spend your refund wisely with personalized recommendations to help you save more. Easily find every deduction using the tax-deduction tagging and automatized spending categorization. Mint also offers a Mint IRA advisor to assist with retirement savings management. 
Take personal finance to a whole new level with Wave accounting. This integrated online service is an all-in-one solution for personal or business finance. Wave features several tools – many free - lumped into one main platform.  Once you authorize connections to your accounts, transactions are automatically tracked. Information is securely stored in the cloud, so you can access your personal dashboard from anywhere you have Internet access.
Wave Accounting
For personal finance, Wave allows you to set budgets and track your progress day by day. More intuitively, Wave can even set budgets for you based on your past spending. If you are a business owner, you can seamlessly keep track of business expenses that come out of your personal budget (and vice versa) with Wave invoicing and accounting tools. Wave accounting software is also 100 percent free, automated, and is real double-entry accounting, with PDF or Excel accounting reports you need, such as balance sheet, general ledger, aged receivables and payables, income statement, sales tax report and more. 
Keep track of your purchases throughout the year with Receipts by Wave. The free receipt system allows you to scan and submit receipts via the Web, mobile, or email. Upload images or PDFs on your desktop, forward receipts, or use the free Wave app for iOS and Android to snap pictures and digitally "scan" recipes with your phone. 
Several digital tools are available specially to assist with your budgeting, such asYNAB. Currently in version 4, YNAB, short for You Need A Budget, is a personal finance and budgeting platform with a compatible app. YNAB 4.0 functions as a cloud backup for your budget as it keeps track of purchases on the spot using Dropbox. 
You Need A Budget
The interface helps you see what financial moves you need to make now to get to where you want to be in the future, such as setting aside a certain amount of cash each month. YNAB works on the philosophy of four core rules and believes that scheduling imports of transitions, rather than automatic importing, will help you manage your money wiser. And because rule No. 4 is "Live on Last Month's Income," starting YNAB once you get your tax refund is especially useful. 
YNAB has companion apps for iPhone and Android for no-excuse money managment, even on the go. The apps let you carry your "budget in your pocket" and allow for 24/7 transaction entry. Your information is kept secure with a PIN number required to open the app. 
Ready to file? Check out PCMag's roundup of The Best Tax Software for 2014.