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Should I hire an accountant or use something like TurboTax to prepare my taxes?

... or in between and go to H&R Block?

I am 30 years old and I've held a couple of different jobs which means I have a few 401(k) accounts lying around. I also own a home in addition to random investments I hold via ETrade. I'm not married but I do support a few relatives that have immigrated here.

With April 15 coming up, what route should I take to prepare my taxes?

Feb 09, 2012 by John from Beverly Hills, CA in  |  Flag
2 Answers  |  5 Followers
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4 votes

The answer to this question depends upon the complexity of your situation and your personal comfort level in doing much of the work yourself. Software and online tax preparation programs work very well for the vast majority of tax payers, with a key caveat. If the thought of navigating tax software causes you to break into a cold sweat, then you should consider working with a professional tax preparer. Many of the tax preparers at H&R Block and other tax-only firms are seasonal employees who are not experts. If your needs are complex, or if you need or want expert advice, make sure that your advisor is an EA (enrolled agent) or a CPA (certified public accountant). Good luck.

3 Comments   |  Flag   |  Feb 09, 2012 from San Francisco, CA

what would someone looking to work with a tax professional expect to pay for different levels of return preparations, for instance, 1040ez, versus a return with itemized deductions?

Flag |  Mar 19, 2013 near Farmingdale, NY
James P. Dowd, CFA

I cannot give you specific numbers because it depends on your area and the complexity of your situation. A 1040EZ should be less than $100. If you have a senior center in your area, you may even be able to have it prepared for free by a volunteer, whether or not you are a senior citizen. If you need to itemize, forms are a bit more complex and the cost will be higher. I recommend that you check with a few service providers and obtain estimates. Good luck!

Flag |  Mar 19, 2013 near San Francisco, CA

I should have specified that I understand that prices will depend on different geographic locations as well as complexity. Thx!

Flag |  Mar 19, 2013 near Farmingdale, NY

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1 vote

The decision to file your taxes yourself or hire a professional often boils down to whether or not you have the time and interest , a general business or financial aptitude, reasonable software and technology acumen, and feel comfortable handling the paperwork. If you own your own business or have self-employment income or have rental real estate, it is more likely that a professional will be able to add value by maximizing deductions and minimizing income taxes. If your taxes are straightforward—meaning you only have employment income reported on a W-2, don't hold significant investments, and don't need to itemize complex deductions—it is more likely that you can successfully use a commercial software package like TurboTax. 

However, there are certain advantages to enlisting the help of a professional. Also, tax professionals come in a full spectrum of qualifications, experience and expense, ranging from national tax preparation companies with retail locations to attorneys in major law firms and everything in between.

One of the main benefits of having a professional tax advisor prepare your return is that they will ensure you claim every possible deduction you're eligible for, maximizing your refund or minimizing what you owe. If you have questions about what deductions you can claim—such as charitable contributions or health care expenses—consulting a professional will help you keep all the money you're entitled to.

Even low income people who may be eligible for various tax credits may benefit from using a professional. In this scenario one of the major tax preparation companies like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt Tax Services may suffice.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Mar 20, 2014 from Township of Anderson, OH

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