App Review: TouchTax | webOS Nation
 
 

App Review: TouchTax 3

by Jonathan I Ezor#IM Wed, 11 Apr 2012 7:41 pm EDT

TouchTax main screen

As Benjamin Franklin said in 1789, in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. While your webOS device can't help a whole lot with the former (although it can help you stave off your inevitable end with improved health and fitness), for those of you in the United States who may still be burning the midnight oil working on your 2011 taxes and the crazy tax code nerds out there might find TouchTax to be a handy reference to keep on your TouchPad. Its interface and functionality limitations, though, may be a bit too taxing for many users, and the $2.99 app does provide e-filing or tax return features - TouchTax is all about the information.

The overall interface for TouchTax is a standard Enyo layout, with sliding panes. The leftmost pane offers Quick Links to the Internal Revenue Code (the law) and Regulations overseen by the Internal Revenue Service, a comparison table of section numbers from the original 1939 Code and its 1986 major revision, and IRS Forms, along with Application Support. Links really is the operative word: the application merely launches a separate browser window directly to the relevant portion of the IRS Web site for the Code, Regulations and Forms options.

TouchTax launching browser window

On the plus side, this means that the information is as up-to-date and accurate as the IRS site itself; on the other hand, though, it makes a data connection a requirement to fully use the application, and once you're on the IRS site, you're limited to its navigation and search choices. It's a government website, so you can imagine how much of a pain it can be to use.

TouchTax does offer local content through its Tax Search box at the top left of the main screen, whose results bring up in-app copies of the Code and Regulations, but the search mechanism is not the easiest to use. The Code and Regs options require entry of specific section numbers; to do any sort of content search, you have to use the Keyword choice. So you have to know what you're looking for and where in the 7,500-page IRS code it is.

The default keyword search is by exact string; you need to select the link to "relevance and occurrence" to switch to a natural language-like search parsing. The application offers no obvious preference options to default to natural language, or to increase the number of results from 50. Once you've chosen and pulled up a specific provision, you can tap the small bookmark icon at the bottom right to add it to the Favorites menu in the left column. TouchTax also offers annotation capabilities (through the pencil icon), e-mailing (the paper airplane) and printing via the TouchPad's built-in printing feature. To delete all favorites, use the trash can in the bottom left; the four-grid button returns you to the home screen - why not a house, we don't know.

TouchTax keyword search

One important note: the versions of the Code (as of January 1, 2011) and Regulations (as of April 1, 2011) stored within the application are described as the most current available from the Government Printing Office (oddly enough, the IRS' own site links to Cornell University's version of the Code for searching rather than any official U.S. government source - see earlier comment about the quality of government websites). According to the developer's blog, "TouchTax is expected to be updated as soon as new versions of the Code and Regulations are made available - and currently the author anticipates making these updates available free-of-charge in the form of future application updates." There is, though, no way of verifying that the information in the app is complete and correct, nor that updates will occur or be free as anticipated.

TouchTax is best used like Wikipedia: as a helpful introduction and initial (but not authoritative) source of information. Anything beyond that, especially when real taxes (and real penalties) may be involved, should be left to verifiable official sources and competent professionals.

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3 Comments

I have to agree somewhat with Jakko. I wouldn't accept anything but free in android also!!! But on webOS, I gladly support with paid apps. Another big difference between webOS-lovers and android users.
LONG WILL LIVE webOS!!!

1. There is no app on Android, iOS or webOS that has the features TouchTax has, namely local, offline access to the full code and regulations. The only internet sites there are either do not have color coding to make reading easy, are not sourced from the official IRS source or are chock full of distracting advertising. P.s. Turbo Tax is for filing your income taxes, not looking up code and regulation sections!

2. There is no app on any platform that has any kind of search functions. By the way, Keyword search has options to show 50, 100, 200, 1000, all search results! It's not limited to 50 results.

3. There's no way to locally store on the mobile device the full IRS forms database - that would take up gigabytes of information - the only practical way to provide access to forms is by linking to the IRS site.

4. This application is intended for someone who needs to look up code and regulation sections. This means, you either know the section number (thus, you enter it into the search box) or you search for a section using keyword search. It's not intended for someone who needs basic tax advice. Go to your tax advisor to get tax advice. TouchTax replaces the printed copy of the Code and Regulations, nothing more. You can either buy the $100 book with the Code, and another $100 book with the Regulations, or you buy the $2.99 application.

5. Enyo doesn't have an easy-to-find "Home" (house) icon - I'm not an artist, so the four squares were the closest I could find!

6. Jakko, you haven't looked for Turbo Tax for webOS, have you? That's right, there is no Turbo Tax - and even if there were, it wouldn't give you access to the code and regulations. So there's no use comparing it to Turbo Tax (or a wiki)!

7. If you read the application description on the Market page, you'll see that it says code and regulation updates will be free - which means code and regulation updates will be free. The IRS hasn't published its new code and regulations yet, so they aren't there yet. It's described in the app and on the market page and on the support site.

8. The sources for each code section are cited at the end of the code section - the sections come from the official IRS database. I'm not sure what the reviewer's statement in the last paragraph refers to, but it's probably not based on a review of the application.

9. The reviewer says is correctly: This is an app for tax CPA and lawyer nerds. Not made for jocks! ;-P

Thank you Markus!