Get a Quality CPA to Prepare Your Taxes (Don’t Risk It!)

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 my thoughts with you about why it matters and for whom.

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

Licensing

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!

Record Retention

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.

Tax Planning

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.

Professionalism

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.

Your Time

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.

How Much Does a CPA Charge to Prepare 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.

Prepare Your Taxes Virtually with EY TaxChat Professionals

The big accounting firm EY just launched a virtual tax preparation service available to most U.S. consumers. It’s called TaxChat. You can use the TaxChat app to complete your tax profile (which gives you your estimated price to file), upload all your documents, and chat back and forth with a tax professional.

EY employs real CPAs and EAs to help you complete your tax return. I ran through their service quickly and was quoted $289 for my personal tax return to be completed, all from the comfort of my home office.

If you’re looking to get started with a CPA right now and don’t want to make an appointment or office visit then it’s worth considering EY’s TaxChat service. Get started with TaxChat and see your price.

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.

Related: How to File Your Taxes for Free This Year

The Low-Down on Boxed Tax Solutions

Another viable option for those who don’t need a CPA or can’t stomach the thought of paying for one is a boxed solution, like Turbotax, TaxAct, or H&R Block online.

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.

Featured Partners

FreeTaxUSA
3.5

Do it right. Do it for free.® E-file directly to the IRS. Start your free return today!

We earn a commission if you click this link and sign up at no additional cost to you.

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.

Information for this post was provided by Larry G. Taylor, CPA, a CPA in Branson, MO. Larry provides tax, financial, and investment services. Visit www.larrytaylorcpa.com for more information.

Get a Quality CPA to Prepare Your Taxes
Avatar About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon.

He created Part-Time Money® back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

Comments

    Speak Your Mind

    *

  1. I just came across this brilliant CPA, Lou Patten in Lake Worth, Florida. After searching for help with my taxes for years, I’ve finally found exactly what I needed. He’s affordable and handled my taxes personally.  I highly recommend him.  Here’s his website http://www.loupattencpa.com

  2. There are some really interesting points posted by all here. To start off, let me state that I’m a CPA practicing in NY and have experience in both tax and audit. I believe that many people are under the misconception that CPAs are just mere tax preparers. Although taxes are big part of being a CPA, the CPA license allows a practicing CPA to perform services that is only reserved for a CPA. Such services can’t be performed by an EA, CFP or just any accountant. These include attestation and assurance services, which relate to financial statements. This is where CPAs who provide these services may charge a pretty penny for and reasonably so, given the rigorous training and Continuing Education they must undergo. However, a lot of CPAs specialize in tax as it is the “necessary evil” and are even an integeral part of the financial statements they provide attestation services for. Just like doctors, attorneys, dentists, CFPs, EAs, CFAs, or any other professionals, CPAs specialize in different areas of the business, they include various areas of taxation and different industries. Depending on the complexity and your unique tax situation, it is wise to seek out the specialty of your potential CPA or tax preparer. Of course I’m not talking about the 1040EZ or even the simple 1040 filer, I’m talking about the person who wants advice on the best way to structure their new business venture, or the person who has multiple S-corps, LLCs, LPs etc. and has jobs in two different states and has foreign income… you get the idea… This is where you’ll reap the benefits of hiring a CPA, who will not only be your tax preparer, but your consultant to various and complex business matters. If anyone needs advice or assistance with their tax situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’ll try my best to help you and if I can’t, I’ll point you in the right direction!

    -Riz