The answer to that question, in recent years, has been the latter for me. Up until this year, I went to see a tax preparer to help me get things done. I even wrote about this in the past, extolling the virtues of hiring a professional to do your taxes.
I still think it can be a good idea for many people, depending on your situation. In my case, it had been getting more expensive to get them done, which precipitated my assessing whether or not it was truly necessary to pay someone. Depending on where you live, and the local tax law, there could be advantages either way. After taking a look, I proceeded to take the plunge and do taxes myself this year.
Now, for many years I did taxes by myself. As in, the manual way using pen and paper. Getting free tax forms from the library (yet another way the local library can save you money) might still be an option, depending on the type of return you’re filing.
However, this year I decided not to go back in time, so to speak, to the days of pen and paper tax preparation. Instead I chose a happy medium: using tax preparation software.
We went to Costco, and I was able to pick up a copy of TurboTax at a good price. Paying under $100 for the version I needed seemed like a potential bargain compared to the $400+ fee I shelled out last year.
Yes, I realize $400 is quite expensive – hence the move to trying it out using Turbo Tax. Actually, the guy I went to in years past charged me just over $200, which seemed like a good price. He passed away, just months after preparing my return a couple of years ago. He was a great guy, and made getting taxes done an almost enjoyable experience with his sense of humor and joking manner. So last year I went to a totally different preparer and was a bit surprised by the $400+ fee.
What did I think of TurboTax?
The bottom line is that I found it to be pretty good!
What I liked about it were three things in particular:
- Super convenient. It’s not like you have to make an appointment to get taxes done with this approach! Whether its 7am or 7pm, you can work on it at your own schedule. You can also work on it at your own pace, and save it in progress. That’s an advantage over setting appointments with tax preparers.
- Easy to use. Really, it’s set up in such a way that you don’t need to know much about taxes at all. As a personal finance blogger, I’m naturally going to be more financially literate than the Average Joe or Jane out there. But still, it’s nice to have software walk you through the steps automatically.
- Inexpensive. This cost me less than 25% of the prior year’s tax preparer expense. That’s appealing to this Squirreler!
Those of you that have used TurboTax or other software for a number of years now probably know these advantages really well. But maybe you’ve wondered how things might be if you actually went to a tax preparer instead.
Well, in my updated view, for a return without a ton of complications, you might as well do it on your own with the right software (whichever that might be). Besides, by comparing to how the preparers did it in prior years, I think this turned out fairly consistent to past returns and was done without too much time being invested.
If your return has a lot of complications, I can still see great value to hiring someone though, no doubt about that! Expertise matters in those situations.
My Questions for You
Did you get your taxes done this year, or did you take a DIY approach?
If you did your own taxes, what was your method?
If you hired out, do you think it’s worth the extra cost?