Going Mobile: TurboTax App for EZ Tax Filing is Latest Example of Intuit’s Broader Smartphone Initiative

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customers to file their entire individual tax returns from an iPhone or Android-based smartphone. (TurboTax introduced the app last year as a pilot program that was limited to iPhone users in California, and used customer feedback to refine the software and online tutorial.)

Since Intuit’s 1993 acquisition of San Diego-based Chipsoft, which first developed the tax preparation software in the early 1980s, TurboTax has emerged as a significant presence in San Diego, with about 900 full-time employees (and more than 1,000 during the tax season) at the company’s serene campus in San Diego’s Fairbanks Ranch neighborhood. Two months ago, the Connect non-profit group gave TurboTax its William W. Otterson Award, which recognizes technologies or products developed in San Diego that have demonstrated a significant positive impact on society or on our quality of life.

SnapTax screen shot

Taxpayers download the SnapTax app for free (from the Apple App Store, Android Market, or SnapTax.com), and pay $15 when they use Intuit’s connected services to electronically file their federal and state tax return with the Internal Revenue Service. The app includes optical character recognition technology that enables users to simplify the process by taking pictures of their W-2 wage and tax statements— Intuit’s system automatically extracts data from the form and enters it on the user’s tax return.

Using a smartphone camera to capture, store, and eliminate the need for paper receipts, checks, and statements is part of a growing trend in the mobile space, which also is exemplified in technology developed by San Diego-based Mitek, and Mountain View, CA-based Evernote.

So how many people would use their phone to file their taxes?

More than you might think, Saik said. Although the app was designed to process only 1040EZ filings, Saik says that covers about 60 percent of U.S. taxpayers, or some 22 million people. “The younger crowd and tech-savvy crowd use their phones quite a lot,” Saik said. “It’s about balancing an easy experience, which is what TurboTax is all about, with the convenience of using a mobile device.”

In the 10 days after TurboTax announced the nationwide launch of SnapTax, more than 30,000 people downloaded the app, Gatlin said. In comparison, there were about 2,000 total downloads last year, when the app was only available for iPhones in California.

In addition to SnapTax, Gatlin says Intuit’s line of mobile apps includes:

—TaxCaster: Helps taxpayers estimate what their refund will be.

—MyTaxRefund: Enables any taxpayer who has e-filed to check the status of their federal tax refund.

—Mint: A personal financial management service that Intuit acquired in 2009. Gatlin says Mint now has more active mobile users today than total users a year ago.

—GoPayment: Enables small business owners to accept credit card payments on a mobile phone. Gatlin says the app helps entrepreneurs and small businesses to get paid any time and on the go.

—QuickReceipts: Provides online access to digital receipts from participating retailers.

It’s an expanding trend, and Gatlin says Intuit is looking at tablets and other platforms to develop additional mobile apps. While the complexities of foreign tax codes pose a challenge for TurboTax, in terms of expanding internationally, Gaitlin says Intuit is looking for other ways to help individuals manage their personal finances and address the needs of small businesses around the world.

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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