More companies are offering technology this tax season to connect taxpayers with a preparer who is willing to do their taxes. The latest is a startup known as TaxChat.
“When you come in and form an account with our software application, we will pair you with one of the folks in our network and get the process kicked off right away,” said CEO Steven Toy.
The application debuted just over a month ago, and so far it has attracted a network of 120 preparers. Around 1,000 tax returns have been processed or are in the pipeline.
TaxChat has a number of competitors who are also aiming to be the “Uber of taxes,” offering mobile apps that connect taxpayers with willing tax preparers. Those include Taxaroo, Taxfyle and Intuit’s Tada service (see Taxfyle Intros Tax Mobile App that Connects Millennials with CPAs and Taxaroo Aims to be Uber for Tax Preparers).
Another service, Happy Tax, also has a mobile app but is using a franchise type of model to connect taxpayers with a network of preparers, including CPAs (see Happy Tax Aims to Shake Up Tax Prep Industry). The service debuted last year and recently acquired another tax prep chain.
TaxChat claims to differ from the competition by using a model that connects taxpayers directly with preparers.
“They’re more of a traditional marketplace where you choose between a whole bunch of different preparers out there, whereas we more quickly get you to the heart of the matter, which is the preparer,” said Toy. “We’re trying to remove every friction point we possibly can, with the assumption that folks using this type of software really just want to get things done and get out of there.”
He said his company carefully vets tax preparers to make sure they are reliable. “We have actual live conversations and do background checks and research on every single preparer to make sure they are up to the quality that we would like in our system and we’ll have the response time that we would like to have out there,” said Toy.
Users who install the software go through a process of answering questions such as whether or not they are married and then get a price quote. There are three pricing levels—$199, $249 and $299—depending on the assumed complexity of the return based on the answers provided by the user to the intake questions.
Toy said TaxChat researched the industry to come up with its pricing and one customer claimed to have saved $300 over last year’s bill from one of the major tax prep chains.
“What we’re doing is we’re helping aggregate the independents, and give people access to a lot of them, not just the ones that happen to be next to the Taco Bell and the Hunan Express in the strip mall down the road,” he said.