Do I need a tax professional or can I file taxes by myself?
OK, real talk: Is there anything more confusing than doing your taxes? It’s something we’ve all gotta deal with, but the forms, the numbers, the terms — it can feel pretty overwhelming. Tax Day is on April 18th, and it’s coming faster than we’d like. . . which is exactly why HelloGiggles compiled our thorniest tax questions and reached out to experts to find out what’s what. With our eight-part tax series, you’ll be *totally* prepared for Tax Day! First, we tackled the basics of doing your taxes; then, we went over what we needed to know about deductions, dependents, receipts, payments, and refunds. Next up, we’re talking about filing your taxes yourself — or hiring a tax professional to do it for you.
Do I need a professional to file taxes? It can’t be that hard, can it?
If you’re worried about the cost of hiring a tax pro, it can be a lot more tempting to just take care of your taxes on your own. Who needs a tax guy? You’ve got your laptop and your brain, after all!
But there really are some situations where it might be more beneficial to hire some help with filing your taxes, Richard Gartland, senior tax professional at H&R Block, told HelloGiggles. “Do-it-yourself software and online tax programs select the appropriate forms and use everyday language, making tax law easier to understand,” he said. “However, the assistance from a qualified tax professional can help put taxpayers of all income levels at ease and does not require any understanding of taxes. Ultimately, it is the taxpayer’s comfort level and personal preference that determine the best method.”
If you don’t know much about taxes, it could benefit you (and actually save you money in the long run!) to have a professional’s expertise, added Melissa M. Labant, J.D., CPA/PFS, CFP, CGMA Director at AICPA Tax Policy & Advocacy. “Frankly, it depends on your personal situation, your familiarity with tax laws and computer software programs, and your comfort with having to deal with an agent if the IRS comes knocking,” she told HelloGiggles. “Don’t forget though, there is real value in sitting down and talking to a CPA about what impacts your tax liability and how you can save money on your taxes next year!”
Jennifer Barrett, chief education officer at Acorns and founding editor of Grow, a digital magazine for millennials, had this suggestion: “If all of your annual income comes from your full-time job, and you just have a few straightforward deductions plus some retirement savings, doing your own taxes should be pretty simple. If you are a homeowner or business owner, it might be worth considering getting expert help to ensure you’re taking all the deductions you’re entitled to – and no more.”
Okay, so I’ll hire a tax professional. What’s it going to cost me?
So you’ve decided to hire a tax guy or gal. It can seem overwhelming, because figuring out how much you want to spend is yet another layer of stress on top of the tax craziness. You want quality advice, but you also don’t want to break the bank.
“Do your research,” Stephanie Gruenhagen, tax attorney at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, told HelloGiggles. “It will depend on where you live and the complexity of your return.”
Suggestions from friends or family are a great option. Gruenhagen suggests finding reviews online of tax preparers in your area, and make sure to not only include big institutions like H&R Block, but also smaller companies, too. “Make sure you read reviews,” she added. “Just because a place is big and services a lot of clients doesn’t mean that it is better than a solo accountant. The solo may focus more on your individual taxes instead of the volume of tax returns you can process.”
In other words? Just like you’d use the Internet to find a good hairdresser or restaurant, do your research!
What do you need to bring with you when you go to a tax guy/gal?
Once you’ve chosen your perfect tax professional, you definitely don’t want to show up empty-handed. “You should have all of your income or expenses organized and documented,” Gruenhagen told us.
That means your W-2 or 1099 (or any other form that shows income), any receipts you want to see if you can write off, the places you worked last year, where you lived, your social security number, proof of identification (like your driver’s license), basic info about any dependents you may have, and your bank account information. If there’s anything else you deem pertinent, bring it along just in case — better safe than sorry, right?
I’m going to do it myself! What’s the best software to use if I want to file taxes from home?
If you know a thing or two about taxes, and you think you’d be best off if you just did them yourself, then you may be wondering. . . which tax software is best?
Good news: You may not have to drop any money on one of those tax softwares at all, if you qualify! “There are many software programs that people can use,” Eileen Sherr, CPA, CGMA, M.T. Senior Technical Manager at AICPA Tax Policy & Advocacy, told HelloGiggles. “The IRS offers free-file and access to various software programs for e-filing your federal tax return and many state returns if your income is below $62,000 and you qualify.”