Ina Fried

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Intuit Sees More Than 350,000 Downloads for SnapTax, Its Smartphone Tax-Filing App

Forget e-filing. It seems lots of people this year are deciding to iFile their return.

Intuit executives tell Mobilized that the company has seen 350,000 downloads for its SnapTax app in less than three weeks since the app was made available. SnapTax allows users that qualify for the simplest of tax returns to complete and electronically file their documents all from within a single app on their Android phone or iPhone.

The program uses the smartphone’s camera to take a picture of a person’s W-2 form and then pops the scanned information into the app, asks a series of about 10 questions and, voila, the return is ready for Uncle Sam.

Carol Howe, the product manager for SnapTax, said that the tax app was a good fit with highly mobile users, who tend to be younger and less likely have a complicated return.

“They don’t [own] a home, they don’t have dependents,” she said. “They just basically have a job.”

Users don’t pay anything to download the app, but do have to fork over $14.99 if they decide to go ahead and file from their phone. On the iPhone, it’s handled as an in-app purchase. On Android, users are prompted to upgrade to the paid version just as they go to file their return. The team said it was excited to hear about Google’s plans for in-app payments and looks forward to switching over to that, more straightforward, option once it is available.

So far, Intuit says it has seen 2.5 times as many downloads for the iPhone as for the Android version.

“It is a little bit of a surprise,” Howe said, though she noted the app has gotten strong promotion in Apple’s App Store.

To be honest, some of the folks on the team were surprised consumers were willing to file taxes on their phone at all. However, after Intuit began studying the issue two years ago it found that a number of consumers, particularly young people, had no problems putting their social security number and other information into their phones.

“Having their taxes on the phone isn’t any worse than all the private information that’s already on the phone,” said lead designer Alan Tifford, noting that the app tends to be popular among the same set that has their whole life stored in Gmail. What the team did do was add new layers of security, encrypting the tax data as it is being sent to and from Intuit’s servers and also requiring users protect the app’s data with a password, whether or not they use a password to secure their device as a whole.

Intuit tested out the idea of a phone app last year in California and has spent the last six months finalizing its plans for SnapTax and making sure it is ready for prime time. Howe (pictured above with Tifford and engineering manager Amir Eftekhari) said that while the downloads are a promising start, it’s too soon to gauge how many people will actually file their returns via the app. Howe said that Intuit will wait until all the filings take place in April to decide where to go next with the tax-preparation app.

SnapTax is just one of several mobile initiatives at Intuit. I spent several hours with CEO Brad Smith and other top executives at the company’s Mountain View, Calif., offices on Thursday and will have a follow-up post on the broader mobile strategy next week.