Unfortunately, I had already filed through TurboTax when I learned this. Some places like senior centers, etc. My credit union advertised the free filing options in our state. I usually use tax prep software, but there have been years where I turned it over to a trusted tax pro and, as an earlier comment stated, not worrying is priceless. In I moved twice and owed state income taxes in 3 states and 1city. In there were capital gains, depreciation, and some other self-employment issues to deal with.
Whoa — What?? Sure enough, in looking back over the forms for the last two years, which I should have checked before E-filing naturally, I found this crazy check box buried in the middle of lots of text. I had sold IRA shares in small chunks and then converted to a Roth to make the tax burden less painful — paying taxes over several years. The years I bought and sold my first house, moved for a new job, and took the down payments out of my investments, I hired a CPA and they were great!
I used TurboTax for the first time this year and it was pretty simple and easy. Doing it myself is far better than being surprised with a huge fee. I used to watch him spend time over weeks sweating the tax process, and it was just too complicated. I use TurboTax and my taxes are somewhat complicated for example, this year we lived in 2 states, I ran a sole proprietorship in both states, my husband was a student, we rolled over 2 ks and made qualified IRA withdrawals.
I make that exact offer to my clients. I have them bring in their TurboTax or any other software prepared return. We use a professional tax preparer. My husband is self employed and we have investments that are too complicated for me to sort through. Good information.
I go with tax software because its easy and quick. I would be worried to do it all by hand and make an error that would cost me. Plus the time that would go into doing all that. I used to do my taxes by hand on paper. It does require some trust in the program, but mostly I enjoy accounting and doing taxes. I do their free filing then take my AGI numbers over to my state website Utah and submit that information online free. I realized it was just as much work getting all the information together to provide to the tax accountant, so I started using Turbo Tax 4 years ago with no issues.
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Need an attorney? Hire one yourself though they will be happy to make a referral. Turns out you underpaid? Get hit with a penalty? My advice: self-educate and do your own taxes knowing the risk but pocketing the savings , or hire a real CPA. When my tax situation was more complicated and I had to file in 3 states due to consulting work , I hired a family recommended CPA to do my returns.
I did our taxes back when we were both employed by other people and had an out of state tax return live in Washington, worked in Oregon with itemized deductions. Then hubby started his own business. We pay an accountant a lot of money each year to do the business and personal taxes, but I would have no confidence in doing otherwise. At some point after a few years of that he had to consult a CPA on his taxes and was told he had been doing some things wrong.
The CPA reviewed and refiled on some previous years and was able to get my father-in-law more money he had been entitled to. I have no trouble paying a person that knows what they are doing. I have my CPA prepare my taxes. I have used him for 25 years. In the long run, it is cheap money because I can ask him questions during the year for free. I went into TurboTax and it says we will have to file by paper. You need to file a X with the additional W-2 income.
File by April 17 and there will be no penalty and no need to worry about an audit! Just file an amended tax return and pay any difference. You only get dinged if the IRS catches the mistake after mid-April. I agree with ritz and Leah. File an amended return Form X on paper and rest easy. When was it earned? This is a fairly common thing, and no need to worry. This process has its own form. DO NOT just correct and resend the original return. That will screw things up. I do my taxes by hand. It takes about 10 minutes. The first time I did my own taxes, I educated myself on how they worked and what different tax situations were.
The IRS has a useful tutorial site with simulations and once I did all of them, I had a good understanding on how things worked. I do my own taxes, but I am a CPA. I always do my return in two different tax preparation software packages to try and catch errors. It seems like one package will always have some sort of small problem that shows up obviously in the other. Asking the same questions in different ways also seems to jog my memory about some deduction I forgot about.
For the first 14 years of my marriage I did our taxes. We started with an accountant that year, and for the last 4 years he has done our taxes. I have used TaxAct online for the last several years because it has no income limit for the free version, and the free version allows you to itemize deductions. My state Ohio has free electronic filing on its web site. At the beginning of each year, I make a new file folder for all of my tax-related documents and receipts so I know where to find everything when I need it.
When you compose a list of Canadian solutions, let me know. I wish we had half the tax breaks that Americans have. Write-offs on mortgage interest and mileage for volunteer activities?? The huge and seemingly random list of write-offs and exceptions is what makes our tax code so complicated. Explain that in a rational world. Has anyone done multiple options for the same year, and had them come out differently?
Steve, I realize you posted your comments months ago but wanted to address your post — this will be a long one… I have done my taxes two ways for the past 6 years — first by hand and then using Turbo Tax. This is where doing taxes on your own and learning the tax code, as annoying as it might be, will come in handy as I was then able to go back into the program and get the numbers to match up. They were very helpful with some situations and sometimes not so much but it taught me something new: go with an EA, which means the individual went through the most testing and is the highest authorization for a tax pro even higher than a CPA.
But their prices rack up if you file a federal plus two states.
So this year was the first time ever that I did not use Turbo Tax — but only because of financial reasons. Having tried out four other options this year, I have to say TT is still by far the most accurate and user friendly. Additionally, Steve you asked another person to post if they had compared different softwares. I actually have. They also got the same exact numbers I already had found on TT and by myself, BUT only after I disagreed with the agent on a few points and she looked it up and realized I was right and knew more about the specific tax rules on that issue than she did again only because I had done my research and read the tax code before; she then offered me a job lol.
But if they input something in the wrong field, they too can overlook something. So going to a tax pro who knew what he was doing was extremely helpful as I learned something new that I will need to do for now on. Turbo Tax this year, with filing two state returns plus federal, would have cost me approx. This is why I chose not to go with TT this year despite still using their software to double check my numbers. So I guess you can say I turned to the more reputable cheaper software sites that allow you to just file state-only returns as I was planning to prepare my federal return by hand, given that I had to also include a statement showing how I allocated expenses between a Schedule C and A.
Very complicated this year. I tried out OLT. A bit of a let down actually. So despite the good PR on OnePrice Taxes, where everything on their site is advertised to be the same price, I ended up using OLT, which has free customer service via online chat or phone, just like TurboTax, supported everything I needed and was also fairly quick and easy to use.
Overall, I would say go with whatever option seems best to you but always do your research. I also learned a lot about taxes in the process and things to look out for in the coming years. For instance, by my having prepared my taxes through TurboTax last year, I knew this coming year we would stand to claim a moving deduction as the move was for work. So I hope by my sharing this info here, it is at least helpful to some. Bottom line, in my opinion the best user-friendly software out there is TurboTax but they can be expensive. Tax pros are good but only if you trust them.
If something seems iffy, walk away. OLT is a great alternative if you are looking for something cheaper — but if you need more guidance within the software itself and something more user friendly, than go with TurboTax. One extra cool thing about OLT: they are the only online software program I found — and I looked into at least four other options than the ones I mentioned here — that allows you to include a personal statement with your federal taxes.
I wish I had known this before as I had already filed my federal forms by hand, which will now take more time to get my refund. It seems to me that if you have to do your own taxes by hand anyways, paying someone or something else to do them too kind of defeats the purpose. I am lucky in that my state does not have an income tax. Still, the layer of abstraction between the tax code to TT software writers to me is disconcerting and confusing sometimes. I think one year I used Turbo to do my taxes first and then did it by hand anyway to double check.
Using a software gives me the benefit of e-filing as there is nothing better than peace of mind in getting your confirmation in 48 hours. I look forward to next year when I go back to only filing one state! I agree with whoever posted here who said that the software found them additional deductions than a tax pro did.
I think if you use the software and answer the questions exactly as they pertain to your situation, people should come out exactly where they should be. That one-on-one service almost makes using the softwares a no brainer for me. They make too many mistakes. Especially if you have a small business. A nice CPA will pay for the error too. I used freetaxusa this year. Liked it. Was able to do everything I needed to for our family adoption credit, deductions, charitable donations, etc. Then I used it to proof check my state taxes — I do state taxes by hand to be free.
READ the regs, do the paperwork, do the whole drill. KNOW the tax code! The tax code is one of the core components of any business, and the key component in all of your bookkeeping. After being self-employed for 37 years, I find that my CPA is the professional that I trust to do my tax returns.
We have never been audited and get expert information which helps us with financial planning. Our current CPA has helped us by eliminating qurterly estimated tax payments and we now get a small refund check each year. Should we be audited, our CPA would represent us. She is easily worth what she charges us for our tax returns.
Your friend got a higher refund than you did because he overpaid his taxes by more than you did. If your goal is to get a big refund, you can get a W-4 form from your employer and request some additional money get withheld from each paycheck. I have been doing my taxes with Turbo Tax for four years. I live in the UK. In theory, everyone wants to simplify the tax code. Even many accountants and the IRS! In practice, whenever somebody proposes eliminating some deduction or other niche that benefits a particular group, people start flipping out.
I work for an international organizatiion and so do not pay taxes. Every US citizen must file a tax return. All US citizens who live abroad are required to file tax returns in the US. Has the fee for his services increased over the years? But our tax situation has grown increasingly complicated. I would much rather go to a CPA.
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Mine is 90 dollars total for state and local, which is a fine price to me and well worth the piece of mind. Plus, this year because I just got married he gave me an hour long tax planning session for no charge as well. When I called her to ask about it she was very unpleasant and said I must have lost it. It really depends on your situation. Mine is pretty typical — salary with W-2s, investment income, some unemployment benefits, health and education expenses. I use standard deductions, have a wife and kid. Only takes an hour or two. Money wasted! I could have easily gotten the same results online.
Most Americans have situations similar to mine, or even easier. Unless your situation is complicated I believe the expensive help is not needed. Keep that money for yourself! That is what I am afraid of. I own a house and stocks but really, there is only so much an average, wage earning person can wring out of the tax code. I can enter data into a computer program as well as the next person. If you decide to go the DIY route, it makes sense to have someone look them over every three years — you can still file amended returns then.
After three years — congratulations, the IRS keeps your money. I did my own taxes until about 8 years ago. Then I was audited. They found nothing wrong with our tax return but the process was far too stressful. Plus, my husband and I we have 2 W-2s, 2 businesses, and a bunch of s. This makes for a complicated return. Paying for a CPA is the best money I have ever spent for my mental health. Unless I go back to the EZ, I will be paying for someone to do this for me. I have prepared hundreds if not thousands of tax returns during my lifetime.
I would agree that there is no one size fits all when trying to determine whether to pay a preparer or use software. I would recommend though that those with highly complex tax affairs use an appropriate tax professional. I see people all the time with complex tax affairs who tried to do it on their own, messed up, and then have to pay a professional to get them out of their mess.
Conversely I think those with very simple tax affairs could easily prepare their own taxes using software rather than paying a preparer. I used TaxAct for years to do ours, but when our finances started getting too complicated investment properties, etc , we chose to hire a professional to make sure we were getting the best advice. I found that by the time I organized all the information for the preparer, I might have just as well put it in the tax software and done it myself…which is what I do now.
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However, depending on your particular return, it can be a little tricky knowing what information should be carried forward from your prior return onto the current return. I have to use an accountant because of the conditions of my divorce. I consider it money well spent but as soon as my sons are done school I will go back to completing my own return. Great analysis. I agree that one size does not fit all. However, now that I am getting involved in rental real estate, I am considering using a tax pro.
One because as my taxes become more complicated, it will be easier for me to make a mistake and two, it will be less of a time commitment from my end. I have been using a CPA for about 15 years. My wife will tell me nearly every year she can do the job just as well as the CPA. Every year I let her try and then take it to the tax person. Every year the pro finds lots of extras turbo tax and my wife miss, usually thousands of dollars of extra.
I keep getting my taxes done by the pro. I find this really hard to believe. Are they the same things that keep showing up from year to year, that you and your wife could keep track of so you could get it right in subsequent years? A huge one that is routinely missed have to do with education credits, and lots of people miss daycare credits for summer camps. We also have a number of ways to save on the state return that only someone versed in MA taxes would catch. We have done our taxes with TurboTax for years and it has worked out well for us we think. We rented out part of our house and the Deluxe version was fine, although I used to be an attorney and took a tax course to do volunteer work so I may be in a different boat than some.
Last year we sold our home and we are considering using a real tax preparer due to the complexities of selling a home that we partially rented. I will say that when I volunteered to do taxes for lower income people, we saw a lot of returns that were very questionable. Also, a model based on the percentage of your refund might have the wrong incentives for some preparers. So, why not have some articles to help readers understand the changes in the tax code that might affect them, rather than reinforcing the learned helplessness here? I know these are starting averages but living in the Philly suburbs these seem low.
HR block charges you a basic amount then adds on additional money for each form. Our taxes are pretty basic with w2s, schedule a, and interest forms, but I read through all the questions and have learned a lot about the convoluted tax code. It took me 6 hours to do fed, 2 states, and local, so I guess it is also depends on how much your time is worth to you. The more you understand your taxes, the better you will understand your tax incentives, and be able make good financial decisions accordingly. This is especially true for small businesses and young adults. Remember those commercials that implied that raising the tax rates on capital gains and dividends would eat away at your retirement savings?
I have not done my own tax returns for over 20 years. And not just because I have a rental property, many s and an LLC. I am not an accountant. I am also not an electrician, plumber or roofer. I believe in leaving these things to the experts. The couple of hundred dollars my CPA charges me to prepare my returns frees my time to do the things I am good at. Most importantly, it gives me peace of mind. As a tax preparer — it is rare that I have seen someone knowledgeable enough to cost effectively do their own taxes. Of course, not talking about EZ, but even those are easy to miss some of the recent deductions, as taxes get more and more complicated.
I always say the whole point is to save our clients more money than we charge. The End. One had some IRS issues, and then I caught a few mistakes and amended some returns for her. I was surprised, and made me appreciate the value we add for even the more tax savvy. Anyway, a good test, as some mentioned is to do your own taxes and see how they compare to a professional.
You may be surprised. Finally, I do live in an expensive state and probably most of our fee is for the complex state tax returns. Be careful what you pay for. I am not sure the average tax return preparer knows much more than average. Most of our new business these days is cleaning up messes left by other tax preparers — it has been really bad lately.
I do not envy the consumer. I appreciate that I am do my own tax returns. Can you give some examples of things people commonly get wrong? I have been using the same person since The only reference I see in this article that I see that is incorrect is the amount charged. My cost each year runs between I do have investments and rental property so I am going to assume the difference is because I live in Hawaii…. But it is worth it :. Desperate, I finally went to see a professional.
I ended up getting a refund instead. He simply switched me from Single to Head of Household, I take care of my elderly parents and some additional deductions, and presto, each year I can count on a refund. Worth every penny. I was as surprised as other posters about the low costs for tax preparation. I want an actual tax professional, so we use a CPA.
He was significantly underpaying his taxes, so now we rely on the CPA. He also guarantees his work, so if we are audited due to his error, he covers a portion of the penalty my mom also uses him and this happened to her. The other benefit is that I can email him and ask questions throughout the year. For now I value what I am getting for my money and my time. I use Turbo Tax. I very much doubt if a tax preparer would save me money and certainly not enough money to cover their fee. I take the standard deduction and make sure I qualify for the Savers credit.
I know where the Savers credit falls. Do I wish taxes were simpler? If the tax system were simpler, they could do something useful that contributes to the wealth of us all. I prefer to do it myself. I have gone back and forth, but for the last 4 years I have done the taxes myself, using turbo tax premier. If I were able to print and take all my documents to a preparer and walk away, I might consider it. Unfortunately, every time I had it done, I had to sit there line by line, provide all the cost basis for stock and everything else, not fun if I still have to spend my time and pay for theirs.
I was and have been better off doing it myself. They will help you with the audit process, but are not there to provide legal advice. For those of you who are students, or low-income earners with a very simple income structure, you can take advantage of the free VITA Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in your area. You decide whether you think tax strategy or investment strategy is going to be more important to your bottom line over the next decade. The right tax person can save you thousands of dollars if they know what they are doing.
My professional tax program was purchased by Intuit, who also owns TurboTax. This includes 1 state return and e-filing.
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After completing the federal return they can go to the California site and file the state return there for free too. Honestly, your tax specialist is only worth what you think he or she is worth to you. I spend countless hours with clients helping them to get their paperwork together or store it during the year for them. Paperwork that usually nets them a great deal of deductions that they otherwise would not think to take. I have history with my clients and they trust me to take care of them, but my time is also very valuable.
Well said. Your mechanic gets paid handsomely look at the posted hourly rate the next time you take your car for service! This is the last time getting taxes done there. They suck. You realize yourbrefund is a function of your total tax minus your total prepayments? I always file my tax by my self because it gives me a security that IRS already received it. I am using this site for 2years now and it is really great! Is a year too much for a retiree to pay a CPA each year for a return that involves a rental property in another state, five IRAs, along with two dozen mutual fund investments that generate dividend income and cap gains plus small losses occasionally on a few of those investments each year?
That is difficult to say. Take your last return with you and shop it around. You are talking about a multi state return which adds cost. Not too bad. Taxes for sure involves cost. Nice post to be more knowledgeable about taxes. Thanks for sharing.
I just did my taxes and am a bit shocked. I got married last year and now, my our tax liability ended up being significantly higher several thousand dollars , even though our combined income was lower than last year. I have done our taxes for the last decade so I have comparisons of before and after marriage.
Let your fingers do the walking. Talk to your friends. Ultimately you must like and trust whom you choose. Consider them your financial gynecologist. I will be using Turbo Tax software to file my tax return. It has worked well for me for the past several years. Unless you have a super complicated return, Turbo Tax is usually the way to go. Having said that, a qualified CPA or tax preparer can often save you a lot of money and worry, especially if you tend to rush through things when you get stressed out.
Plus you get to deduct tax prep fees. One last tip…Look for coupons for Turbo Tax! Happy Taxing! I am an intuit product user. Lacerte is their Cadillac product. I have acquired more than one client this way! I always takes me under an hour to complete the return. But so far all my tax situations were completely covered by the software. My situation is very complicated, head of household, a young child, with a bunch 4 rental properties. Married last year and am confused about taxes.
If we file joint, our combined liability is or so. Any suggestions? Beyond that, it sounds like you are doing the right thing — using online tools to try it both ways, and see which gives you the most favorable results. Do you work for free? I doubt it. You should consider hiring a CPA to assist you. You will pay less than a major service on your Lexus! Did at home for 1, dollar returns, now my husband hired tax specialist who gets us grand back every year. She includes things like mileage to and from Doctor, prescriptions, his union dues, work boots, gas to and from work for him.
My question is, will this big return put a target on our head? Should I be worried about our preparer? Seems professional. Charges us dollars for that big return though. I just want to know if this sounds fishy. Thank you for your consideration and help. I do want to point out a few things that might shed some light on your situation: 1. In particular, IRS Publication deals with miscellaneous deductions in detail.
If your accountant is independent rather than a member of a large organization, he may be cheaper but this also means he has less resources at his disposal, and is not representing a company with a well-known reputation on the line.
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If you are consistently getting large tax refunds, it may a sign that you are having too much deducted from your pay in the first place. Quite the opposite is true. Its available to everyone. Also the smaller firms are able to give more attention to the client versus the Bigger firms where you might just be another number. Are you afraid of the IRS? Good luck. We also made a post to our Facebook page with the link to the IRS. You have a problem and a target in your head. Has your withholding changed? Does this guy have an active CPA license?
All she did was punch numbers into a computer. So I finally asked our work accountant if there was something else I could do, she said she used Turbo Tax herself and just walk your way through it. The first year I was scared to death, just knew the IRS was going to hit us with a fine or something. So the last 7 years we have done Turbo Tax, I get the one where you get one state and 5 e-files as I do my kids taxes also. You have to watch which one you buy, we usually get deluxe but have used premier for when we sold land and our house and had our house up for rent.
But since using Turbo Tax we have got a refund, not anything big, but enough to cover the cost of buying Turbo Tax and a nice dinner to celebrate yet again another year of getting that headache out of the way. We do it all on Turbo Tax. And tax people and accountants are not the same thing. So paying for an accountant is like paying for a lawyer, they are trained and have years of knowledge that I as a turbo tax person would never have. You get your moneys worth from an accountant.
All the deductions you listed are entirely legal and valid deductions. My husband worked out of a union hiring hall for years, and now is a company employee, but works at various locations. The only thing you need to ensure for commuting expenses is whether or not your husband is commuting to the same location every day all year.
If he is, then no, you cannot deduct mileage for commuting. However, if he is working at various locations as he sounds like he is a construction based union employee then his mileage expenses are valid. Medical expenses are valid deductions if your expenses are more than a certain percent of your income. His union dues, specialty safety work clothes, tools, etc. Depends on cimplexity of your return, where you live, quality of your records, did you complete the organizer?
An auditor would probably deny that.
How much should you pay for tax prep?
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