taxesWhether you’re ready or not, here it comes. It’s tax season, and you need to start preparing your 2014 return. But should you hire a professional to do the heavy lifting this year, or is it best to batten down the hatches, whip out that solar calculator and just do them yourself? Let’s take a look at the benefits and downsides of both options in hopes to make this tax season as stress free as it can possibly be.

Preparing Taxes Yourself

Preparing taxes yourself has one huge advantage: You don’t need to hire an accountant. While it’s true that filing your taxes can in some cases be highly complicated, software and free fillable forms can make the job much easier.

Software

Tax preparation software makes the process of filing your returns much simpler. The software will take you through the process of putting in your information and will ask questions to determine if you qualify for any deductions or tax credits.

The IRS has partnered with several major vendors in a program that allows you to file your taxes online for free if you make $60,000 or less in adjusted gross income. I don’t know about you, but I pretty much live by the philosophy that if it’s free it’s for me (and if it’s slices of cheesecake, I’ll take three).

Some of these resources are only available if you live in certain states – so make sure to do your research before you start working on your taxes. IRS.gov has lots of great information about Free File, as well as resources to help you find a free e-file program for filing your state return. If you make over $60,000, you may have to pay for the software, but it could be well worth it to save yourself some time and hassle. Several of these software developers offer specialized versions for small businesses or people with a lot of investment income that might be worth looking into as well.

Fillable Forms

If you make over $60,000, there’s still a way to file your taxes online for free: fillable forms.

While not as simple as the software, the fillable forms might work well for someone who has filed their taxes before and knows what deductions or credits might apply. The forms come with instructions and even autofill some of the basic calculations for you.

The downside to fillable forms is that you still may need to do some math. Looking through the IRS tax code for clarification on a point can also be like finding a needle in a haystack with provisions more ambiguous than the ending of “Lost.”

If you feel like you have a good handle on the complexity of your financial situation, fillable forms could still be a good option.

Hiring Someone

Another option is to hire someone to do your taxes. This could be preferable if you dislike dealing with numbers or if your financial situation is a little more complex.

An accountant or financial planner will know more about potential tax deductions than the average person. They’ll know exactly what information to get from you in order to help you get back as much money as possible. And a professional does taxes all the time, so there’s a significant reduction in the risk of mistakes.

This may even be easier if you regularly see a financial planner, because that person will be intimately familiar with your financial situation.

Do you file your own taxes, or do you hire someone to do them for you? Leave us a note in the comments section.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I think if you have done your own taxes before, that you will probably be safe. If you haven’t, then I would suggest hiring a professional to do them for you. There are multiple ways that you can go about doing your taxes, most opt for the online methods. Like you said, if you are going to hire someone, go with an accountant or a financial planner. They would have the experience to help you get your taxes done right.

  2. This is pretty good advice. If you feel like you can handle your own taxes then I say go for it but it’s important that you know every form that you will need and understand how to file. If you aren’t sure then I would say hire a professional. It’s usually affordable and saves you a lot of time and potential headache. Thanks for posting.

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