Should I do My Own Taxes or Hire a Tax Professional

by Cameron on July 21, 2011

The government wants their piece of the pie. You may not think the government knows what they’re doing in Washington, but when it comes to getting their cut of your money, they know exactly what they’re doing. Every April 15th is like high school graduation for the government: everyone is writing them a check. The question isn’t whether they do enough to earn that chunk of your money or if the government needs an overhaul. The question, at least for this discussion, is whether you should file your own taxes or hire a professional to file them for you.

We’ll start with the do-it-yourself argument. New online tax software, such as TurboTax, has made it easy to file your own taxes. The software teaches you what each tax term means and walks you through each step in the process. Besides, any halfway smart person can follow the documents the government provides. It gives you the directions, right? All it takes is the ability to read and a little bit of time. No one likes to do their taxes, but they have to be done. I’m giving my money to the government, so should I really give it to an accountant too.

All of that sounds like it makes sense, right? Did you know that according to Congress, the United States tax code is about 5.6 million words long? That’s about seven times as many words as are in the Bible. Believe me, it is not an interesting read either. If you can make it through a couple of pages, understand it, and not fall asleep, you should be given an award. Software has made the process easier, but it is still by no means “easy.” When trying to figure out how much to pay the government, I believe it is worth the extra amount to pay a tax professional to file my taxes. Companies like H&R Block specialize in filing taxes. In other words, every day they deal with the tax code, talk to IRS employees, and double check their work.

Is not hiring a professional worth the risk to save yourself $100 or $200? You might find that the government owes you a refund of $40? A tax professional might be able to get several more deductions that you missed, turning that $40 refund into several hundred dollars. The risk of leaving money on the table isn’t worth the savings you get by doing your own taxes. Besides, you’ll sleep better since you don’t have the headache from dealing with your taxes all night.

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