Learn About the Best Tech Tools and Financial Planning Tips to Help Make the 2018 Tax Season a Breeze
While preparing your annual tax return and paying taxes is certainly not fun, getting and staying organized and utilizing tax planning and financial planning resources can make the process as simplified and stress-free as possible. Here on the Summit Brokerage Blog, we discussed some general strategies to help you reach this goal in the previously published blog entitled “Financial Planning Tips to Help You Prepare for the 2018 Tax Season.” In this instant blog, we will be getting more specific about how you can use technology to simplify and streamline the upcoming 2018 tax season. When selected and used appropriately, tax technologies and apps offer countless opportunities to maximize your efficiency, provide easier and more organized retrieval of information, and generate faster processing of data.
Hardware Technology Solutions
As Erik Asgeirsson, CEO of the American Institute of CPAs’ technology subsidiary, CPA2Biz, says, “Mobile devices can be used to capture images of receipts, etc., and have them automatically uploaded to your accounting system. And all small business offices should have a scanner to help maintain a truly paperless environment.” 
Software and Cloud-Based Tax Technology
There is a myriad of boxed and cloud-based software program options for tax preparation, sales tax management, bookkeeping, accounting, and billing. Popular options include TurboTax®, QuickBooks®, TaxJar, Bill.com and Exactor.
Cloud-based technology is an excellent, prudent option for tax planning and organization because it provides an “all-in-one-place”, continuously updated set of financial information. Also, users can often store and retrieve data on offsite servers at a cost that is much lower than on premise servers. Cloud-based technology should empower business owners with higher-level analytics capabilities so they can get a better view of what’s going on in their business and make strategic decisions accordingly. Moreover, in the event of a disaster such as a fire or flood that shuts down or damages your business, you will have a much quicker recovery time of data stored in the cloud as opposed to data stored on-site and or in paper format.
There’s an App for That!
There’s a variety of apps that may help you with tax planning, preparation, and organization. Here is just a small sampling of some available tax apps:
- If you have to travel for business, check out the MileIQ app. Once you install the app on your smartphone, “…the app works in the background. No buttons to press to start or stop. Your miles are automatically logged and recorded creating a complete recordof all your tax deductible and reimbursable mileage.”
- If you make charitable donations, you may want to try using the ItsDeductible app (available on iOS only). This free app is offered by tax software provider, TurboTax. “It works by tracking your donations either online or on your iPhone. The app is set up to track everything from drop-offs at the thrift store and cash donations to mileage. For donated items, the app offers a suggested resale value to use when calculating your itemized deductions. TurboTax users can import data from ItsDeductible to their tax forms.”
- There is also the IRS’s official mobile tax app, called IRS2Go, which is free and works on both Apple and Android devices. This app has many useful features; for example, you can use IRS2Go to:
- Check the status of your federal income tax refund within 24 hours of the IRS receiving your e-filed tax return or four weeks after mailing your paper return;
- Easily access mobile-friendly payment options like IRS Direct Pay, which is a free and secure way to pay the IRS directly from your bank account. The app also allows you to make a credit or debit card payment to the IRS, but only through approved payment processors; and
- 3) Find free tax help. The app will give you direct access to free tax software from your mobile device to help you conveniently file your tax return. Additionally, the app can help you locate free in-person tax help near you either though the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or a Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site.
How to Evaluate Tax Technology Options
Technology for tax preparation and planning is a rapidly expanding industry. New apps and digital programs are seemingly popping up by the minute. But just because something is new, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good. As such, you need a framework to help analyze tax technology options on the market. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to use a specific tax technology:
- Scope: Make sure that the technology you are selecting has the right features for your business’s needs and size. Before investing in any technology, analyze what your needs are and ask whether the technology in question meets these needs. Your accountant or financial planner can help you figure out what your business’s tax season needs are so that you can appropriately identify tech options to help meet these needs.
- Security: Keeping your sensitive financial information secure needs to be a top priority. Make sure to analyze the security features of any technology option you are considering. Ask around. Read reviews. Consult with IT professionals. And do your research and due diligence as to whether the technology you are considering has experienced any security breaches, complaints, legal issues, and/or storage problems.
- Scalability: Ideally, if you are purchasing tax technology, you want technology that will be able to grow with your business and constantly changing tax regulations.
- Usability: How easy is the technology to use? If the technology is too complicated, you will be unlikely to use it. If it is so complicated that you have to call your tax professional and IT manager every time you want to use the technology, then the technology becomes cumbersome, inefficient, and a waste of time and resources.
- Integration: If you are using multiple technologies for your taxes, make sure they integrate and work well together.
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Cetera Financial Group® (“Cetera”) is a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers empowering the delivery of objective financial planning advice to individuals, families and company retirement plans across the country through trusted financial advisors and financial institutions. Cetera is the second-largest independent financial advisor network in the nation by number of advisors, as well as a leading provider of retail services to the investment programs of banks and credit unions.
Through its multiple distinct firms, Cetera offers independent and institutions-based advisors the benefits of a large, established broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, while serving advisors and institutions in a way that is customized to their needs and aspirations. Independent financial advisor support resources offered through Cetera include award-winning wealth management and financial planning and advisory platforms, comprehensive broker-dealer and registered investment adviser services, practice management support and innovative technology. For more information, visit www.ceterafinancialgroup.com.
*”Cetera Financial Group” refers to the network of retail independent broker-dealers encompassing, among others, Cetera Advisors, Cetera Advisor Networks, Cetera Financial Institutions, Cetera Financial Specialists, First Allied Securities, Girard Securities, and Summit Brokerage Services.
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