Admittedly, I think about and like taxes more than the average American. When I do my own tax return or a family members' return, I use a few different tax products and to be perfectly honest, I even consult with a tax professional - actually two or even three. However, not everyone is willing to spend their time, effort, and money on learning more about taxes or testing the accuracy of different programs. Your choice is simple: Either make the investment to do it yourself, or risk making mistakes! If it sounds stressful, risky, or you just don't want to do a lot of reading or researching and you hate double-checking, then read no further - hire a Tax Pro.
There are scenarios where you should "go pro" - like having self-employment income, experiencing life changes, paying for extended family care, or determining which credits you qualify for, such as EITC, Child Credits, or Dependent Care. For these situations, with some of the juiciest tax deductions, credits, and outright complexities in the code, a pro is almost a necessity if you desire the best tax outcome you can get. If you don't want the biggest refund you are entitled to and prefer to leave money on the table - so be it. But if you are after the biggest refund you can get, then read on!
Granted, off-the-shelf/do-it-yourself tax software has made it relatively easy to prepare a simple tax return and get your refund. However, fast and easy does not always equate to accurate, and by accurate I mean: Did you get ALL that you are entitled to? Generally, tax return software is designed to mimic a tax preparer using questions and prompts to guide you; however, it does not do the consulting or even ask the probing questions - the ones that can lead to credits and deductions that you would have otherwise missed. Yes, your return will be done fast, but the price of speed could be a missed deduction or credit. If you aren't willing or able to spend extra time to learn all the tax rules and annual tax law changes, then consider consulting a Tax Pro, because no tax software package - regardless of price - has all the answers.
Friends call me biased when I say, "everyone should know or use a tax professional to get their taxes done," but I truly believe they should. The "Tax Hassle," as I like to call it, backs me up. Tax Hassle, in a nutshell, is the mind-boggling 74,000-plus pages or so of tax rules, new tax laws, correcting of errors/warnings in tax software, and fear of audit. There is so much to miss and one tiny mistake can cost you money and in some cases, cause you to be flagged for an audit. If you still insist upon doing it yourself, then consider using a professional occasionally, just to see if you are missing anything or doing something the wrong way. If the Tax Pro finds something, and they usually do, you may be able to amend prior-year returns to realize even more savings.
If you decide that hiring a Tax Pro is the best route for you, ask friends with situations similar to yours if they can recommend someone. Make some calls and meet face-to-face with anyone you are considering. Once you set up an actual appointment, it will likely only take an hour or so - if everything is in order. Someone who does taxes for a living is better equipped and faster at preparing your taxes and saving you money. Better, faster, saving you money -without all the headaches and stress - that's the bottom line isn't it? After all, there is nothing wrong with getting the help you need from a Tax Pro, especially if you get to keep more of your money!