Here in the U.S., the deadline for filing our tax returns is a little less than two months away (April 15th, for those of you don’t know.) And the folks at H&R Block have set up a website and produced a free iPhone app to answer IRS tax questions. It’s similar to our own MakeUseOf Answers service where you get answers to tech related questions.
Sure, the H&R Block answer service is a marketing tool to advertise their services. However, browsing the web and iPhone app, you can quickly see how useful the service is, whether you need the company’s tax preparation services or not.
Both the website and iPhone app formats for the Q&A service work in similar ways, but I prefer the iPhone app as the easier and less cluttered of the two formats.
One of the features of the iPhone app is the 30-second quizzes about tax issues and common IRS tax questions. Here, try this sample quiz:
- Can your business deduct the cost of gifts to your clients? Yes/No
- You don’t have to live in your home when it’s sold to qualify for the capital gains exclusion? True/False
- Capital gains tax is on the appreciated value of an asset such as stock. True/False
- You can deduct the mortgage interest for 2 residents at a time. True/False
- As a volunteer, is the value of your time or service deductible? Yes/No
(See correct answers at the end of this article.)
The main part of the app of course is the Q&A, which consist of three parts: Recent and Popular IRS tax questions, and questions and answers broken down into categories. The last section is for you to ask your own questions, which requires a sign-up and log-in.
Many of the questions I read were very typical and practical for most tax payers. Questions range from, “How do I fill out my taxes if my spouse passed away in 2009?” to, “I am currently buying a home. I am a first time homebuyer. Can I get the homebuyer tax credit for my 2009 taxes if I’m buying the home in 2010?”
All IRS tax questions are answered by H&R Block experts, and each answer is typically no longer than a paragraph or two. And the answers don’t end in a sales pitches to have H&R Block do you taxes for you.
Questions and answers are also broken down into categories which include: Deductions & Credits, Work, Education, Real Estate & Rentals, Small Business, Retirement, Product, Investments, and Miscellaneous.
Finally, there’s a Glossary section that defines tax terms such as Accounting Period, Annuity, Casualty Loss, Child Tax Credit, Dividend, Hardship Withdrawal, etc. Of course, the app also includes information for contacting local H&R Block offices, including locations and maps, and the tax preparation products the company sells.
In addition to Q&A”˜s, the web format includes Tax Tips & Calculations, and a few blog posts which seem pretty new to the site. There are no blog archives for years prior to 2010.
Unless you’re a business or have complicated tax return issues, most tax returns can be completed without hiring someone to do the job for you. H&R Block”˜s Q&A iPhone app and website might well be adequate for your needs.
So do you complete and file your own tax returns or do you hire someone? What resources do you use to get taxes done?
Answers to quiz: 1) Yes 2) True 3) True 4)True 5) No