While tax time usually conjures the image of piles of paper and shoeboxes full of old receipts, it doesn't have to be that way forever. If you're sick of shuffling through hard copy documents to get your finances sorted every July, here are our top five apps that'll save you time and stress this tax time.
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Note that this list is collated from online reviews, recommendations and popular opinion. We have not reviewed these products ourselves unless otherwise stated.
Australian Taxation Office
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
The official app is mentioned first for two reasons — for one, it's the only app on this list that supports Windows Phone as well as both Android and iOS, and secondly because you can trust it to be accurate to all the ATO's rules and regulations.
The ATO's official app has gone through a number of upgrades since it was first released, most recently a tool that lets you digitally keep track of your deductions throughout the year and then export them directly into your tax return. This myDeductions feature will also let you log car trips if you use your car for work.
It also has a number of tools and calculators, such as a tax withheld calculator, and the ability to set your voiceprint for biometric authentication with the ATO. While you'll be redirected to either myTax or e-Tax to actually lodge your return, data entered into myDeductions will sync up, and you can even use this app after the fact to check the status of your tax return. If you're a small business owner, the ATO app has a couple of tools for you as well, such as a business performance check that'll show you how your business matches up against its competitors in your industry.
Best of all, it's free.
Price: free to start, $49+ to lodge
eTax Return by Pocketbook promises to help you lodge your tax return in just ten minutes. The app is exclusive to iOS, and is free to download and start your tax return. You only have to pay once you're ready to lodge, with fees starting at $49. You can even opt to have your fee taken out of your return, as many do when handling their tax through an accountant. Your tax return, submitted through Pocketbook, will of course be reviewed by a registered accountant before lodging.
Pocketbook's tax return app is largely designed to make the process of lodging through e-Tax far easier. Questions are asked in plain English rather than tax-office jargon, and you're even able to message an accountant if you need help. Like ATO's app, Pocketbook also allows you to snap photos of your important documents to easily import them.
If you only have an Android device, you can get Pocketbook's free budgeting app to help get your everyday finances in order, though it won't let you do your tax return as the iOS exclusive app does.
While my Tax (not to be confused with the government's myTax tool) hasn't added a new tax return app since 2013, its standard app is still a great tool for tax time, developed by a chartered accountant. The Mac OS X version will set you back $5.99, while the iPad and iPhone edition is a bit more pricey at $12.99.
my Tax is a collection of tax calculators, which have recently been updated for the ATO's 2016 rates. Its tools cover a huge range of tax-related areas, with everything from HELP debts to PAYG witholding to working out whether it's in your best interest to salary sacrifice your superannuation. For investors, it also has a Capital Gains Tax calculator so that you can plan your next move with your shares, investment properties or other capital assets.
While my Tax is one of the more expensive apps on this list, it's really a catch-all tool once you've made that purchase, and is especially useful for those with more complicated finances.
Price: Monthly plans from $26.95
Shoeboxed's app isn't really a standalone, but a companion app for the service that Shoeboxed runs — receipt tracking. The core of the service allows you to physically mail your documents to Shoeboxed, who will scan and digitally store them, as well as securely destroying the original physical documents. Don't worry about the ATO with this one — Shoeboxed is ATO registered, and the ATO will happily accept digital documents as well as physical.
Shoeboxed is a little pricey, requiring you to keep up a monthly subscription for as long as you want access to your documents and receipts. Most of the levels of subscription are intended more for businesses than personal users, though the cheapest $26.95 plan gives you 50 documents a month and a 2-5 day turnaround for digitising them.
The app is a lot easier than most receipt-keeping apps, however, Shoeboxed will extract all the information from your receipts automatically — all you need to do is snap a picture. Outside of tax time, you can even use this to keep track of expenses to be reimbursed by your workplace. If you already use accounting software, Shoeboxed is compatible with a number of them including MYOB, Xero, QuickBooks and more.
Price: $13.99 / free
Platforms: iOS / Android
As the popular VehicleLog is only available for iOS, we tracked down an Android equivalent as well — Vehicle Logger. These apps are for those who use their vehicles for work, or workplaces who have to keep track of various company vehicles. ATO requires you to keep a logbook for a continuous 12-week period in order to claim deductible expenses on your vehicle. That log, once kept, is then valid for the next five years, so long as the logbook is indicative of its everyday use.
Both include support for multiple vehicles and are ATO compliant, as well as allowing a choice between GPS tracking of vehicles and manually entering your trips. Though similar, Vehicle Logger is free and VehicleLog will cost you almost $14. However, as the app's page points out, the cost of the app is actually a deductible expense itself.