OK, it's probably not as exciting as checking your Facebook account on an iPhone or playing Angry Birds on a Droid. But for a few weeks each year, you can whip out your smartphone to track the status of your IRS refund, thanks to a new app from the Internal Revenue Service.
Amid the blizzard of smartphone apps introduced each week, the IRS debuted the IRS2go this week. It works with iPhones and Androids and can be downloaded for free from iTunes and Android Market. Users must enter a few bits of information – like their Social Security number, the filing status they used on their tax return, and the amount of the refund they expect.
Then the "big watch" begins. Those who file their return electronically can start checking about 72 hours after they get an IRS e-mail acknowledging that the return has been received. Those who file paper returns should wait three to four weeks, the IRS says.
Very committed taxpayers can also use the app to sign up for daily e-mailed tax tips on topics like free tax help, child tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and education credits. (Question: Wouldn't you want those tips before you file the return? But maybe we're being picky.)
Then you can check weekly, daily, even hourly to find out when your refund is coming.
Being able to check the status of a tax return electronically isn't all that new. The application "Where's My Refund?" has been available on the IRS website since 2002, letting taxpayers know when their refund will be deposited in their account or mailed out.
But creating a smartphone app shows "our commitment to modernizing the agency and engaging taxpayers where they want when they want it," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a press release. "This phone app is a first step for us."
Well over 75,000 IRS2go apps have been downloaded so far, an IRS spokesman confirmed. Currently, some 50 users have rated the app on iTunes, giving it an average of "4+" stars. There are about 20 pithy reviews that, while not wildly enthusiastic, are positive: "It does what it says" and "looks pretty good," for example. The approximately 60 users who have left comments on Android Market so far offer similar responses.
Of course, a few users, like "sean," see the larger picture: "Neat app... but once u use it to do what u need, it becomes redundant."
Now, if the IRS came out with an app showing how to trim your tax bill before filing your return, that would be interesting!