You know they’re coming: A bunch of envelopes stamped with that uninspiring phrase, “IMPORTANT TAX DOCUMENT ENCLOSED.” If you haven’t already, now’s the time to start thinking about filing your taxes, and for some people, that involves hiring a professional tax preparer.
Whether or not you need someone to do your taxes for you is a matter of opinion. Some people are comfortable doing their own taxes, even if they’re a little complicated, while others would prefer a professional deal with everything. Generally, if you’re a wage earner who gets a W-2 and takes the standard deduction, doing your own taxes could be the easiest, most cost-effective way to file. DIY tax preparation involves either filling out forms by hand or using free or inexpensive software to walk you through the process.
The cost of hiring a tax preparer is often the determining factor between whether someone will go the DIY route or not, said Brian Kuhn, a certified financial planner with PSG Clarity in Fulton, Md., who discusses taxes with his clients, but is not a tax preparer. It may seem unappealing to pay someone to do something you can do for free, but then again, tax mistakes can be costly. Missing out on deductions is one thing, but you could also face fines if the IRS finds inaccuracies in your return. Here are some reasons you might want to hire a tax preparer.
1. Peace of Mind
Kuhn said even people with very straightforward taxes can benefit from using a tax preparer. He said he sometimes suggests clients hire someone every few years to make sure you’re saving as much money as you can.
“Bring [previous years’ returns] with you to the accountant and ask how much it would cost to review,” Kuhn said. “It’s a double check for your work.”
2. Unconventional Income
The more complicated your taxes, the more appealing professional help may be. Freelancing, owning your own business, working side gigs or managing a rental property can make your taxes trickier than someone who simply receives a W-2 from his or her employer, Kuhn said.
An unexpected windfall can complicate things, too. Even if filing your taxes has typically been a simple process, a one-time change in income could warrant professional attention.
3. Major Life Events
Getting married (or divorced), having a baby, moving to a different state — these are all things that can significantly change the way you approach your taxes. Some people experience multiple life events in the same tax year, making a tax preparer’s help potentially more valuable.
When it comes down to it, you need to weigh the cost of getting help versus the cost of making mistakes. There’s also a time cost: Having someone else do the hard work might be worth the money if DIY tax prep would be too stressful or time consuming. Just remember that you’re liable for what’s on your tax return even if you get an expert’s help, so take the time to ask for a referral or research a reputable preparer.
And, remember, it’s in your best interest to start your search now, since filing early can help minimize the odds of taxpayer identity theft. You can also monitor your credit if you have reason to believe further identity theft is occurring. You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.
More on Income Tax:
- How to File Your Taxes for Free
- How to Protect Yourself from Taxpayer Identity Theft
- How to Maximize Your Tax Refund