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Choosing a tax preparer

Posted in Spending & Managing Money on February 1, 2019

It seems we just celebrated and welcomed a new year and now it’s time to think about taxes. We all seem to dread it and procrastinate, but the truth is, it’s one of those things that usually isn’t too bad once you get started. Getting started is the hardest part!

If your taxes are fairly simple it’s easy to take on the task yourself, but as your taxes become more complex, it may be a good idea to hire a professional. But how do you find and hire a professional that’s right for you. Here are some options:

1. DIY – Many people feel comfortable preparing and filing their own tax returns. If you have the basic knowledge of the tax laws and you have the time, individuals can complete their own returns and file them. There are many software products available such as Turbo Tax that make filing fairly quick and easy. Also the IRS Free File can help you file for free. Check out the Free File Software Lookup Tool to find out if you qualify and what your options are.

2. A large tax preparation service – If you want help, companies like H&R Block, Liberty Tax Service and others specialize in helping people during tax time. The cost will vary based on how complex the return.

3. Free help - Some organizations offer free tax help. For example, AARP offers free tax help through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. You don’t have to be an AARP member and there’s no age requirement. For more information, visit the Tax Aide Site locator, which will be available later this month/early February through April 15.

4. A tax professional – This would be a CPA or other seasoned tax professional. If your tax return is fairly complicated, you might opt for a professional. If you don’t already know a tax professional, here are some ways to find one.
  a. Ask around for referrals. People usually love to share when they’ve had a good to great experience, so ask around to find out who others are using.
  b. Check out reviews on the Internet and social media.
  c. Check out the company’s or the professional’s website. Checking out the website can give you a really good idea about the company and if it’s right for you.
  d. Make sure you understand their process and timeline and you’re comfortable with it. Does the CPA also complete the return or is the return completed by an assistant and the CPA reviews and signs off on the return before filing. Does the tax professional have a habit of filing more extensions than returns?

Once you get your tax documents in one place, don’t procrastinate! No matter who you decide will handle your returns, make 2019 the year of getting it done early. Then while others are scrambling, you’ll have plenty of time to relax.


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