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SnapTax lets you file your taxes using your iPhone

It's almost March and that means tax day is marching relentlessly closer. As always, the major providers of tax prep software have tweaked their offerings and are competing for your business.

Most of the software from the big three (Intuit, H&R Block, and TaxAct) looks pretty much like what you'd expect if you've ever used one of those programs (TaxAct's desktop software is Windows only). But Intuit has taken one big leap, offering a program called SnapTax that lets you prepare and file your return on an iPhone or Android phone.

There's a pretty big catch here. SnapTax is designed for the person whose taxes are simple enough to file using the 1040EZ form. If you earned more than $80,000, derive income from anything but a W2-type job, (although interest and unemployment benefits are OK) and have dependents or own property, it's not for you. On the other hand, if you're, say, a student, with a dead simple financial picture and an addiction to your smartphone, SnapTax could be right for you.

Here's how it works. You download and install the free app. When the program launches it asks questions to find out if your taxes are simple enough for SnapTax to compute; if so, it has you create an account. After that, take out the W2 form your employer sent you, take a picture of it with your phone, and you're pretty much done. The data is "read" using optical character recognition, encrypted and uploaded to Intuit's secure servers where it is entered into an electronic version of the 1040EZ. You'll be able to review the form before filing.

It costs $15 to file one copy to the feds and another to your state tax collection folks. So far, 315,000 copies of SnapTax have been downloaded, says Intuit spokeswoman Ashley Kirkendall.

[San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow Bill Snyder on Twitter @BSnyderSF.]

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