I used to work in a CPA firm back in my 20s. Filing taxes was a part of the annual routine.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the many advantages of having a CPA do your taxes. Below, I share how much a CPA charges to do taxes as well as why it matters and for whom it’s best suited.
Table of Contents
How Much Does a CPA Charge to Do Taxes?
As with most things, the amount of money a CPA will charge to prepare your taxes varies depending on several factors, including the CPA’s billing method. Some of the most common billing methods include:
- A flat fee for each tax form/schedule filed
- A minimum fee, with additional charges for more complex situations
- A set annual fee, with additional costs for changes in your tax situation
- An hourly rate based on the amount of time it takes to prepare your return
- A set fee for each data point that’s entered
- A subjective amount based on the CPA’s discretion
You can also expect to pay more if you show up with a box full of disorganized paperwork. The more effort you put into preparing the information the CPA needs, the faster and less expensive your tax prep should be.
According to the National Society of Accountants, the average cost to hire a CPA in the United States ranges from $457 for an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule C and a state tax return to $176 for a Form 1040 with a state tax return.
A Form 1040 with a Schedule A and a state tax return will run you an average of about $273. If this makes you gulp, remember that a CPA will often find ways to help you save money on your taxes.
These savings will offset at least part of their preparation fees, if not all.
As a business owner you can expect to pay around $180 per hour (the national average) for your business tax return. Simple businesses will run at least $360; whereas more complex situations will result in a bill above $1,500.
If you don’t already have a CPA to do your taxes, consider TurboTax’s new Live Full Service Business Taxes. It’s available for a flat fee for a limited time. In some cases with TurboTax you’ll be working with an actual CPA live from the comfort of your home.
Do You Need a CPA to Prepare Taxes?
The answer to this question is… maybe.
There are some cases (like when you have a super-simple return) that the services of a CPA might be overkill. However, there are many benefits to working with a CPA that most people find well worth the cost.
While anyone can file their taxes on their own or use a different tax preparation solution, as the saying goes, just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Here are a few of the reasons why you’ll want to consider hiring a CPA.
Why Use a CPA to Prepare Your Taxes
Practicing CPAs are required to hold a license through their particular state. For the CPA to maintain this license, they must generally do two things:
- Complete a certain number of continuing education hours (for example, taking a course on the latest tax deductions)
- Run their business according to specific standards
These standards assure that you’re getting a quality service. If you ever have a question about your CPAs legitimacy, you can contact your state’s board of public accountancy and request information about your CPA.
Check out this website for a list of each state board’s contact information.
Consistency and Stability
A CPA is going to be there for you year after year. Practicing CPAs are in it for the long run.
Doors are Always Open
A CPA performs many types of financial services, not just taxes. Therefore, their doors are always open for tax questions, tax planning, and any audit help you may need.
Many other tax preparation services close their doors from May to December. Who’s going to help you when you get that audit letter? Your CPA will!
A CPA will maintain your tax information much like a doctor holds on the patient’s medical records. Your CPA will act as a personal filing cabinet through the years.
You’ll even get your copy of the return and supporting documents in a nice little folder for you to file away yourself if you want. Digital formats are also becoming more prevalent.
The best part about having a CPA is the tax planning advice they can provide throughout the year. There are certain year-end tax moves you can make that will save you hundreds in tax dollars.
Software and tax preparation companies aren’t around to help you with those things.
As previously mentioned, a CPA is licensed with the state. They’ve gone through tons of accounting classes, a challengin exam, and must maintain continuing education credits each year.
Only a person who wants to be a professional is willing to go through what it takes to be a CPA. Of course, CPAs are still just people. But I’ll take the CPA designation over any other type of tax filing option.
The last good reason I’ll give you is your time. I’m not going to lie and say that you won’t have to spend a little time preparing your tax files to bring to a CPA.
But these professionals will save you the time it takes to enter all the information and file your return. The process also gets quicker as you learn what you need to bring to your CPA each year.
When Not to Use a CPA
Generally speaking, you don’t need to use a CPA if you’ve got a simple return. A CPA wouldn’t be necessary if you only file a 1040EZ or a 1040 but take the standard deduction. There are plenty of free tax filing services that you can use to prepare and e-file your taxes quickly.
The Low-Down on Boxed Tax Solutions
These tax preparation programs typically cost between $10 and $120, so they are very cost-effective if you’re comfortable with a DIY solution. Many even offer their services for free if you have a simple return.
Once you’ve gathered all of your documents, you can typically prepare a simple return using one of these programs within an hour.
Some software solutions also offer accuracy guarantees and provide you with support if you are audited after using their program to file your taxes. Make sure you read the fine print and that you’re comfortable with the level of protection you’re receiving.
Ultimately, you’ll need to assess the complexities of your tax situation and your comfort with preparing your own taxes to determine whether a boxed tax-prep solution is a good option for you.