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Tech review: Apps to help you prepare for tax season

The TaxMode app offers users a quick idea

The TaxMode app offers users a quick idea of how much federal tax they will owe or receive in a refund. Credit: Newsday / Sawhney Systems

Season’s greetings — tax season, that is. The end of the year is a good time to make a list of your earnings and check it twice, as some important decisions must be made by Dec. 31. These apps can get you prepared before you prepare your return.

TaxCaster

(iOS, Android; free)

Most of us have an idea of our 2019 earnings from paycheck stubs or gains on stocks sold. Plug in the numbers and TaxCaster estimates your 2019 federal tax situation. You can also do some “what-if” scenarios. For example, if you have capital gains from stocks sold — and still hold stocks that are losers — you can see how much selling the losers will ease your tax burden. Remember, selling stocks after Dec. 31 does not affect your 2019 taxes.

MyBlock

(iOS, Android; free)

If you use H&R Block to file your taxes, MyBlock can give you a head start on your 2019 taxes because you can access prior-year returns by inputting your H&R Block account information. Even if you’re not a Block client, you can still use the information you have on hand to get a good estimate of your 2019 tax situation. Virtually all tax situation scenarios are covered here nicely.

TaxMode

(iOS, Android; free)

This no-frills app has been updated for the 2019 tax year, and it can give you a quick idea of how much federal tax you’ll owe (or get back in a refund) next year. Plug in the numbers you have such as income, taxes withheld, personal exemptions and it will give you an estimate not only of your tax situation but whether you have to worry about things like the alternative minimum tax or an additional Medicare tax.

IRS2Go

(iOS, Android; free)

Many Long Islanders work as consultants or freelancers in the “gig economy.” Often, these workers don’t have taxes deducted from their paychecks. Once you get an idea of what you owe from using the other apps reviewed here, you can use IRS2Go to make an estimated tax payment due on Jan. 15, which may make the impact of April 15 a little more bearable and a little less taxing. 

Phones spark Black Friday spending

Consumers set records for online spending on Black Friday, and more sales than ever were initiated on smartphones. Adobe Analytics said online sales hit $7.4 billion on Black Friday, up from $6.2 billion last year. Adobe said 39 percent of the sales came from smartphones, up from 33 percent last year. Overall, the average online order on Black Friday was $168, Adobe said.

— PETER KING

Netflix, HBO decry password sharing

Netflix, HBO and cable industry titans are considering tactics to cut off people who borrow passwords to watch programming without paying for it. Possible measures include requiring customers to change their passwords periodically or texting codes to subscribers’ phones that they would need to enter to keep watching. The pay-TV industry is projected to lose $6.6 billion in revenue from password sharing and piracy this year.

– BLOOMBERG NEWS

Staying on track

Activity trackers like Fitbit are a popular holiday gift for older people, but will the gift keep on giving? Michigan State University researchers found that people 65 and older are less likely to use the trackers if they think they are “engaging in competition with family and friends.” Solution: Tell older adults the trackers can be used for a variety of functions such as monitoring heart rate or calories burned.

— PETER KING

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