Preparing your taxes can be incredibly stressful. In many cases, it just makes sense to get some help with them.
Save Me From This Misery!
When it comes time to file taxes, you can look to software or a real live person. In this article, we are going to focus on living people, to wit, the tax professional. You might be surprised to learn there are different types of assistance out there.
Generally, tax preparers have the least amount of experience when it comes to filing taxes. Tax preparers are individuals that are trained for the job or pick up the knack over time. An example of a huge collection of prepares would be the people that work at H&R Block. The advantage of using a tax preparer is they are very cheap. Just keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
The IRS actually licenses certain individuals if they pass scrutiny with the agency. Unlike tax preparers, an enrolled agent can represent you at an audit. Enrolled agents are a step up from tax preparers, but the quality of work and knowledge varies from agent to agent. Some can be excellent because they have an interest in the work and stay on top of changes. Others are less impressive.
The Certified Public Accountant goes through a hellish process to obtain their license. Getting licensed as a CPA requires significant study and the licensing test is absolutely brutal. If you have a unique or complex financial situation, you want to use a CPA to do your taxes. In fact, you should use a CPA throughout the year to not only prepare taxes, but plan to avoid paying as much tax as possible.
CPAs are expensive with hourly rates in the $200 to $300 range. They can, however, be worth their weight in gold and a few of them are pretty heavy. When picking a CPA, you want to find a proactive one. A proactive CPA is going to talk to you about your life and finances. They are then going to make suggestions to significantly lower your tax bill. The savings typically far outweigh their fees, and you'll be glad you hired them.
So, who should you pick? The answer is entirely dependent upon the sophistication of your finances. If you are salaried employee earning $50,000 a year, you don't need a sophisticated tax planner. If you are a small business owner with three businesses, it is time to find a CPA.
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