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Deciding Between DIY Taxes and Hiring a Tax Expert? Read This First:

When it comes to tax season, one of the most significant decisions you’ll face is whether to tackle your tax return on your own or enlist the expertise of a tax professional. This decision isn’t always straightforward and depends on various factors unique to your financial situation. In this guide, we’ll delve into the considerations that can help you make an informed choice.

Understanding Your Tax Situation

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Your decision to file taxes independently or hire a tax expert hinges on several key factors, from your level of knowledge, available time, your goals, and more.

Do You Even Need To File?

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The IRS has clear language helping us assess whether we even have to file. Individuals who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents and are employed within the United States typically have an obligation to file a tax return.

In general, you are required to file a tax return if:

  • Your gross income exceeds the established filing threshold.
  • You have earned more than $400 in net earnings from self-employment, which includes income from side jobs or other forms of independent work.
  • You have encountered specific circumstances that necessitate filing a tax return, such as having additional tax on an IRA, or you have received health savings account distributions, to name two circumstances.

To determine whether you need to file, you can assess your situation by answering specific questions related to your income and employment status. The IRS has a 12-minute quiz to help you find out.

Tax Knowledge and Complexity

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First and foremost, assess your comfort level with tax regulations and the complexity of your financial situation. If you have a straightforward tax situation, such as only one W-2 form and standard deductions, using a do-it-yourself tax software might suffice. However, if your tax situation is more intricate—such as owning a business, multiple sources of income, or investments—a tax professional’s guidance could be invaluable.

And remember, tax laws are notoriously complex and subject to change. What you figured out last year might not be the same now.

Time Commitment

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Consider the time investment required to prepare your taxes. While some individuals may find joy in navigating tax forms, others may prefer to delegate this task to save time. The average American spends around 13 hours preparing their taxes, according to IRS reports. Assess whether your time is better spent elsewhere or if the convenience of hiring a tax expert outweighs the DIY approach.

Financial Goals and Optimization

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Are you looking to minimize your tax liability or maximize deductions and credits? Tax professionals possess the expertise to identify opportunities for tax optimization and ensure compliance with applicable tax laws. Their insights can potentially lead to significant savings or advantages that you might overlook when filing independently.

Special Circumstances

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Life changes such as marriage, divorce, homeownership, or the birth of a child can significantly impact your tax situation. In such cases, seeking professional advice can help navigate complex tax implications and ensure accurate filings.

Risk Tolerance

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If you’re risk-averse or concerned about making mistakes on your taxes, hiring an accountant can provide peace of mind knowing that a professional is handling your financial matters.

Pros and Cons of DIY Taxes

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Pros

  • Cost-effective for simple tax situations. Federal filing is always free.
  • Empowers individuals to take control of their finances.
  • Convenience of filing from the comfort of your home.

Cons

  • Limited support for complex tax scenarios.
  • Potential for overlooking deductions or credits.
  • Time-consuming for those unfamiliar with tax laws and regulations.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Tax Expert

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Pros

  • Expert guidance on complex tax matters.
  • Potential for maximizing deductions and credits.
  • Peace of mind knowing your taxes are handled accurately.

Cons

  • Higher cost compared to DIY tax software.
  • Dependence on the availability and expertise of the tax professional.
  • Less hands-on involvement in the tax preparation process.

Best DIY Tax Software

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According to Nerdwallet, the best tax software systems for 2024 are:

  • Best free tax software for simple returns: H&R Block
  • Best overall paid tax software: Turbo Tax
  • Best affordable tax software: TaxSlayer
  • Competitive tax software to consider: TaxAct

Making Your Decision

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Ultimately, the decision to file taxes independently or hire a tax expert boils down to your comfort level, financial situation, and individual preferences. If you value convenience and peace of mind, entrusting your taxes to a qualified professional may be the best choice. However, if you enjoy the challenge of managing your finances and have a straightforward tax situation, opting for a DIY approach can be empowering.

Remember, whether you choose to file independently or seek professional assistance, accuracy and compliance with tax laws should remain top priorities. Assess your needs, weigh the pros and cons, and make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals.

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Author

  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

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