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Grow Your Business Technology

Alexa, Where's My Refund? How to Get Smart About Your Taxes

Alexa, Where's My Refund? How to Get Smart About Your Taxes
Credit: RawPixel/Shutterstock

Tax software has made it exponentially easier for consumers to file their own taxes without the help of a tax specialist. There are numerous online services that claim that you can do everything yourself by spending just a few hours on the computer.

In reality, it's a tad more complicated than that. Depending on your specific tax circumstances, it still can be a lengthy process to get your taxes done. However, there are some solid options that should be able to walk you through even the most complicated situations. [Doing your taxes on your own? Find the best software to use in our tax software reviews.]

If you're inexperienced at filing taxes using software, then go with Intuit's TurboTax. It is by far the most straightforward solution when it comes to doing your own taxes, although there's been some feature and price creep over time. You'll need some patience for working through some of the sections, especially if you're a sole proprietor, run an S-corp, or manage other nuances of business tax. However, the W-2 Snapshot features is particularly helpful.

TurboTax offers a free edition, but it's unlikely to be enough to see you through the whole process. Check out the various choices that TurboTax offers to get a feel for what's right for you. If you're in the higher bracket where you need advice about self-employment, or general feedback about the confusing tax law that went into effect this year, you still may want to go with a proper accountant.

TurboTax has thrown in a neat parlor trick this year. There's an Alexa refund skill that will tell you its status, how much your refund is, and when it will arrive. Fortunately, this skill won't taunt you with how much you owe if you're one of the unlucky ones that owes the IRS after filing your taxes.

TurboTax may be overkill for some. If you're looking for a free option, check out TaxAct. It's not as fully detailed or user-friendly as TurboTax, but the service should be sufficient for those who have enough experience tackling the taxes beast.

CreditKarma, which is a popular destination for digging more into one's credit score, also offers tax filing assistance. The interface is pretty simple and straightforward, seeking to bring the same type of transparency that the company has brought to credit reporting to the world of online tax filing.

On the artificial intelligence front, Amazon's Alexa unfortunately won't do your taxes for you (yet, at least). But there is a sales tax calculator, if you want the answer to the final cost of the pair of shoes.

With TurboTax and other services already on mobile devices, it may not be long before you get more integration with digital assistants. In the meantime, be sure to weigh the cost and time benefit of software versus whether it's time to bring in the professionals.

Derek Walter

Derek Walter is a freelance writer in northern California. He is the founder of Walter Media and author of Learning MIT App Inventor. Follow him on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Google+.