Tax Software vs. Tax Pro

We’re well into tax season, which means you’ve likely received all the forms you need to start preparing your taxes. But if you’re stumped about whether to go it alone or hire a professional, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Are you …

Young + Single + a Non-homeowner?

Chances are your return is very straightforward and could be completed with the assistance of tax software – particularly if you plan to take the standard deduction, rather than itemize.

Older + Married + Have a Family?

The more sources of income, dependents, and possible deductions you may have, the more involved your return will likely be. Using software is not impossible, but it might take more time than you want to spend on it – time better spent with your family while a professional sorts things out for you.

Do you own a home and/or rental property?

If you’ve bought or sold a home, or own rental property, you might want to itemize your deductions. A professional may help you keep more money in your pocket by ensuring you get the proper write-offs.

Did you have more than one job last year?

If all of those were W-2 positions, your return should still be pretty straightforward, and you could stick with software. But if you have a main gig plus a side hustle that calls for a 1099, that’s where write-offs get complicated and you’re better off with a professional.

Do you freelance or own a business?

Multiple income sources where you’re responsible for paying your own taxes = complicated tax filings with lots of room for error – best to leave this one to the professionals.

Do forms make you nervous?

Tax software has made even novice filers feel like pros, but if you really don’t trust yourself to do things correctly, stick with the actual professional.

Do you like to DIY?

If you can reasonably follow directions and have a general understanding of your financial picture, you might be able to go it alone with tax software.

Do you have at least $270 to spend on tax prep?

A 2015 survey conducted by the National Society of Accountants found that the average tax filer who went with a pro paid around $270 to complete a basic Form 1040 with itemized deductions on a Schedule A, plus a state return.

Alternatively, you can buy tax software for less than $100 – or even get it for free, depending on your gross adjusted income.

Bottom line: No one cares more about your money than you do. So make the choice that gives you confidence in the accuracy of the forms - and confidence that your dollars are being spent wisely.