Tax season is here, and if you haven’t heard, there have been significant changes to what you can claim on your taxes.
More and more people are opting for the standard deduction rather than itemizing as a result.
If you have a complicated tax situation or you feel that you’re leaving money on the table when you do your taxes yourself, consider the best options for hiring a tax accountant.
Use Free Walk-In Services
If you have low to moderate income, you can use a volunteer service that does not charge you to prepare and file your return. AARP offers Tax-Aide to those 50 and older who earn a low to moderate income.
Likewise, the IRS offers the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). If you earn under $56K, are disabled, have limited English speaking capability, or are over 60, you can use this service for free income tax preparation.
Use A Software Program & Have An Expert Look It Over
If you use a tax software program like TurboTax or H&R Block, there is an option for you to have a tax professional look over your return. The benefit is that they can find any errors and make sure you're optimizing your tax preparation so you can pay the minimum or get a larger refund back. Depending on the software program, having an expert look your form over will likely be cheaper than hiring a tax accountant.
Hire An Accountant
The easiest way is to simply hire an accountant. However, this is also the most expensive option. There are a few things to consider:
Use A Large Firm
For years, my husband and I used a large firm to help us file our taxes. While their service was stellar, their rates kept going up and up and up. By the end, we were paying nearly $500 for them to complete and file our taxes.
Hire An Independent Accountant
Once we stopped using the large firm, we found an accountant working independently that our bookkeeper knew. She only charges $150 for completing and filing taxes. She doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that the big firm has, but she is more than competent, and we will continue to use her services.
Caveats To Hiring An Accountant
If you choose to hire an accountant, there are a few things you should consider:
Independent Accountants Will Usually Charge Less
As my example above illustrates, independent accountants will usually pay less. You can often find them through word-of-mouth referrals. We found ours because she works side-by-side with our bookkeeper for my business.
Interview Your Accountant
Don’t be afraid to interview accountants. Ask what fees they charge, what their experience is, what their qualifications are, what the turn-around time is for the tax return, what their policy is if you are audited, etc.
Accountants Know Your Situation
When we had a simpler tax situation, I filed our taxes using a software program. Now that our taxes are much more complicated, I like using an accountant. A benefit to this, even though accountants cost more than doing it yourself, is that the accountants get to know you and your situation. There is a continuity there that you do not have with companies like TurboTax and H&R Block who hire hundreds of seasonal tax accountants.
No one likes tax season (except maybe tax professionals), but with a little diligence on your part, you can find a qualified tax preparer that won’t cost you a small fortune. The key is to begin searching as soon as possible, before tax preparers are busy with returns.
Do you hire someone to prepare your taxes for you? If so, who do you hire? How did you find them?