The iPhone App for Tax Season

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At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, TurboTax software firm Intuit (Stock Quote: INTU) will unveil an iPhone application that allows users to quickly file state and federal taxes by snapping a photo of their W-2 form.

The application, SnapTax, will initially be limited to residents of California. It can be purchased via Apple's (Stock Quote: AAPL) iTunes service for $9.99 starting Jan. 15. The cost includes federal and state tax preparation, and electronic filing.

The program relies on optical character recognition software to process tax form data. Users answer a handful of prompted questions, review the displayed information and click "send" to file.

"We weren't really sure whether people would take this seriously and actually finish their taxes on the phone," says Barry Saik, vice president of product management for TurboTax. "You can take the view that this is kind of a crazy thing to try to do."

In its initial version, the application is geared toward filers with straightforward returns. Simple returns, using the 1040-A and 1040-EZ forms, account for 70% of all filings. Future versions may link directly to an online site that can help process more complex returns.

If all goes well in California, SnapTax will be incrementally launched in other states. The program may also be adapted for other platforms, such as smart phones running Google's (Stock Quote: GOOG) Android OS and Web-cam-equipped laptops.

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