GoodApril Helps Consumers Anticipate their Tax Liability – and Hopefully Cut it, too

Personal Finance
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While services like TurboTax and H&R Block will help you make calculations for your tax return, GoodApril – offered free of charge – helps you anticipate those numbers and, if you play your cards right, shirk off some of the burden.

GoodApril asks only that you upload last year’s 1040, and, in return, it predicts your tax liability for the current year. Included in its projections is a neat layout of new tax policy; it breaks these new policy changes into easily navigable sections: those likely to affect you and those that aren’t. In terms of readability, then, GoodApril is fantastic. What could’ve been an extremely dry overview of the tax code is colored and coded to be more readily understood.

This is one of GoodApril’s first iterations, so not all the kinks have been worked out, nor do they yet have the capability for the most comprehensive view of your individual tax needs. Among the omissions: as GoodApril acknowledges upfront, in a page of Major Assumptions, they assume that your income is constant from year to year.

For some, this isn’t a problem.  For me, who was in school for most of 2012 before returning to work, my income last year was abnormally low – and substantially lower than I expect it will be in 2013.

This blindspot shows throughout the product, too; for instance, among GoodApril’s recommendations: I should contribute $1,000 more to charity to benefit from a deduction.  Considering that, according to their projections, I’ll make that same $8,000 in 2013, the suggestion of a $1,000 donation is a bit too much to ask.  Not only would such a donation be crippling to my own finances, but I also probably wouldn’t itemize my deductions anyway, with just $8,000 in annual income.

Again, this assumption about charitable donations is one that GoodApril acknowledges, so you can’t knock these guys for lack of trying; but it’s still a gap worth noting, because GoodApril’s goal is to personalize taxes: to parse out what’s relevant to you in the tax code and what’s not.

On this same token, I imagine GoodApril’s audience wouldn’t have the same issues with the service that I do. I imagine their core would make enough dough so that a $1,000 donation to charity is, in fact, sound advice.  And I imagine so because the people who stand to gain the most from learning the ins-and-outs of the tax code are those who are taxed heavily: the relatively well-off. The higher up you are on the food chain, the more I think you could use GoodApril.

Report card: B

GoodApril is a good base for learning about your tax liability and tax concepts more generally. Compared to those on the IRS website, these concepts are much more accessible: they’re written more concisely, and graphics help the information move from the page to your brain.

Part of the reason for that concision is omission: the tax code is so hopelessly nuanced and complex – it’s 90,000 pages long – that it’s nearly impossible to go from concrete numbers on the IRS page to an abstract idea about taxes – one that’s readily understandable – without omitting some of the nitty-gritty.

This isn’t a knock, though. Whatever details are missing from GoodApril’s personalized profiles isn’t from a gap in knowledge – they benefit from the insights of a former editor in chief of a major tax journal – it’s simply the consequence of an overly complex tax code. With all that in mind, GoodApril’s attempt to steer us through the tax code is a solid stab at a difficult topic.