January 26, 2011 |
If you’re ever looking for a laugh, the Internal Revenue Service usually is an easy target. But the news that Uncle Sam released iPhone and Android applications this week offers proof that this stodgy old organization is smarter and more innovative than most financial institutions.
The new app – called IRS2Go – is the agency’s first, but you can expect more apps in the future. IRS2Go might better be called RefundTracker. Cash-strapped taxpayers no longer will have to log online or dog the IRS’ call center to answer a burning question: When can I get my hands on my refund?
Taxpayers who file their returns electronically – about 70% of the returns – can get updates within 72 hours after the IRS sends an email acknowledging it received the return. Taxpayers who file with paper – shame on you! – will face a three- to four-week wait because paper returns take longer to process.
To keep the information secure, the IRS will require taxpayers to come armed with their Social Security number, their filing status and a bit of information that a crook would be unlikely to know – the amount of the expected refund.
The IRS will tout this publicly as “customer” service – and it is. But the reality is this is a smart money-saving move. As we noted in our 2010 Online Banking and Bill Payment Forecast report in October, the financial services industry can save $1.4 billion by steering more online-banking customers to head online or to their mobile devices rather than schlepping to a branch or phoning the call center when they have a customer-service question. The IRS stands to save handsomely if it can shift a few million refund queries to mobile devices.
Having said all that, the IRS also is touting IRS2Go as a way for taxpayers to receive daily tax tips and reminders of pending deadlines. That’s a bit much. Insert your IRS punchline here.