3 Tax Apps That Save Time and Cash

These apps simplify the filing process and can help you put your refund to good use sooner.

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You use your phone for everything from paying bills to online shopping, maybe even GPS navigation or finding new restaurants. Why? Because it's accessible at a moment's notice and chock-full of applications that allow you to do all these things and more from anywhere. So why not take it a step further and use your phone to make filing your income tax return easier, too?

The following are the top personal tax apps that can simplify the filing process and help you put your refund to good use sooner.

[See 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2012.]

1. TurboTax SnapTax

Supported devices: iPhone, Android

Who can use it: Filers using a Form 1040EZ

Cost: Free to download, $19.99 to file

How it works: The TurboTax SnapTax application is a new app released by Intuit that allows users to e-file both federal and state taxes via their smartphone.

The app uses character-recognition technology to transfer the information filled out on a 1040EZ form to the electronic version. Filers simply take a picture of their tax form and answer a few questions to verify the accuracy of the information. SnapTax will then calculate the refund amount (or total owed) within 15 to 30 minutes and allow users to "purchase and file" if they're satisfied with the results.

[See Take Advantage of These Tax Breaks.]

2. H&R Block Mobile App

Supported devices: iPhone, Android

Who can use it: Anyone

Cost: Free

How it works: If you're weary about sending your private tax information into the mobile universe, you can still use applications to make tax time easier. Popular tax-prep company H&R Block also offers a helpful app that allows users to accomplish a variety of tasks related to getting their returns ready.

Highlights of this app include:

Refund estimate: Use the app to estimate how much you'll get back from the IRS or how much you'll be expected to pay so you can budget accordingly.

Office locator: Get the phone number and directions to any H&R Block location if you want to speak with a professional in person.

Refund status: Perhaps the most attractive feature of the app, e-filers can stay updated on the status of their refund and find out when they should be receive it.

[See How to Get the Saver's Credit.]

3. Jackson Hewitt Mobile App

Supported devices: iPhone, iPad, Android

Who can use it: Anyone

Cost: Free

How it works: Jackson Hewitt, the largest privately held tax preparation firm in the nation, has followed the lead of H&R Block and just released their own tax application with similar features.

In addition to estimating and tracking your refund, as well as finding Jackson Hewitt locations, you can also use the app to schedule a tax-preparation appointment and even view special offers and discounts related to tax preparation services near you.

A lot of people have fairly simple tax situations and don't need to spend time and money working with an accountant. If your top concern this tax season is simply getting yours finished quickly and painlessly, employing the help of one of these tax apps just might be the answer.

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Corrected on 03/13/2012 and 01/18/2012: A previous version of this article misstated a cost associated with TurboTax’s SnapTax app. It costs $19.99 to file. An earlier version of this post also misstated the name of the H&R Block Mobile App and incorrectly stated that it is supported by the iPad. It can only be accessed by smartphone.