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Tax Pro vs Do-it-Yourself
Filing a tax return is an annual ritual. Some people look forward to the do-it-yourself (DIY) challenge; others turn to the convenience and expertise of a tax professional. Which is better?
TV ads make it sound so easy to do your own taxes. Some (DIY) tax software companies say you can get the biggest refund using their product.
DIY taxes can be fun and cost less than hiring a tax professional, but may require considerable time and effort. DIY tax software uses a step-by-step fill-in-the-blank method that can easily be done from the comfort and convenience of your home.
But, are you missing anything? Is it really correct? Have you gotten all the benefits, credits and loss carryovers? These questions linger long after the DIY tax return is filed.
Millions of taxpayers use DIY tax prep, but millions also rely on a tax professional. Should you do it yourself or hire a professional?
Some taxpayers prefer the privacy of their information and using a home computer for DIY. Others consider the importance of hiring a tax professional, who is an expert in current tax law and is required to protect your privacy.
Qualified tax professionals are generally CPAs or attorneys, who are licensed by the state, or an enrolled agent (EA), who has passed a comprehensive tax law examination and awarded the highest credential issued by the IRS.
The EA is held to a high standard by the IRS and must obtain at least 72 hours of continuing tax education every three years.
Did you know that it takes 100,000 pages to cover the Internal Revenue Code, Regulations, and explanations of the federal tax laws? It is no wonder that a true tax professional is a gem to have on your side.
A good tax professional will review the entries on your tax return with you when it is completed, and before submitted, so you can understand how your income and expenses are reported and verify their accuracy.
When your tax return is completed, either by a tax professional or DIY, your signature (or PIN number) means that you are signing your return under a penalty of perjury before it is submitted to the IRS.
The perjury statement reads: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete.” Those are strong words.
If choosing a tax professional, feel free to interview them first. Determine your comfort level. Ask to see their credentials, ask how much continuing education they completed in the last 12 months, ask how they base their fee, and if it can be paid from your refund. Most importantly, ask if they will take time to discuss your completed return with you, so you are confident that it is true, correct, and complete before you sign it.
Does DIY really cost less than hiring a tax professional? It depends.
Every DIY tax software company advertises that you can start your return for free. Free is great! But, after hours of working with DIY tax software, will you be too tired to care about any additional fees for upgrading, filing a state return, or to have your filing fees taken from your tax refund? Once you add the fee for audit protection, the total may bring the DIY fees close to the cost of hiring a tax professional.
Whether using DIY tax software or a tax professional, make sure the tax return is true, correct, and complete before it is submitted.