Where to Get Your Taxes Done in 2019 (The 3 Best Places & Prices)

 

Are you wondering where to get your taxes done?

This is a great question. You want to be sure you’re spending your money wisely and getting the best help possible for your situation. One of my Twitter followers tweeted me this:

How do you recommend people get their taxes “done”? Should we go to an accountant, or one of those places that have the guy dressed as the statue of liberty standing outside waving a banner, or TurboTax (or the like)?

The 3 Top Places to Get Your Taxes Done

Like the question implies, there are three major players in the tax preparation game:

  1. Full-time public accountants (CPAs and Enrolled Agents) and other traditional practitioners
  2. Retail tax preparation services (you know, the ones with the Statue of America out front?)
  3. Do-it-yourself tax software (e.g., TaxSlayer)

Check out PT Money’s 2019 Review of TaxSlayer here.

Which option is best for YOU?

My honest and short answer is to use TurboTax. Talk to anyone who has used this software and they will tell you it is smarter than most humans. If you are debating whether to deduct something, the software will walk you through the pro’s and con’s of doing so. If you need to know what a 1099 is because you don’t know if you have one, the software will explain. The process is incredibly comprehensive and educational.

 

File for Free with TurboTax

 

That said, there are plenty of options that make filing your taxes online easy. The point is that filing online is the way to go if you don’t have an extremely complex financial situation. Remember that you can go through the process of preparing your taxes with an online software and if when it comes time to file you aren’t satisfied — you don’t have to pay! (because you won’t file). You can take the information and walk into an H&R Block or have a tax professional complete it for you.

The bottom line is that the more complex your financial situation is (i.e. rental properties, heavy stock trades, small business, income from multiple states), the more likely it is that you should use a professional, like a CPA, to help you with tax planning and filing your taxes. For the rest of us, filing online is the way to go.

Average Price to File Taxes

Prices to file taxes can be all over the map because everyone’s situation is so different. I’ve put together some averages based on reliable sources that should give you an idea of what to expect when you go to file.

  • Full-Time Tax Pros (aka your local CPA): According to the National Society of Accountants, it will run you an average of $273 per return to work with a CPA. That nearly $300 price tag is for an itemized 1040 filing with state tax return. An unitemized 1040 with a state tax return will only set you back $176. When I used to prepare taxes, I didn’t charge this much (more like $75-$125). However, that was over ten years ago.
  • Retail Tax Prep Offices (H&R Block, Liberty Tax, etc): CBS news reported that “The average fee at the national tax service firms H&R Block and Liberty Tax Service is $147 per return and $191 per return, respectively.”
  • Tax Software: Most people who don’t itemize their taxes should be able to get away with a completely free federal and state tax return. For those who itemize, the average price to file will be around $35-$40 per return (according to TurboTax and H&R Block websites). For those who have a business, rental property, or other investments to report, the average price is going to be around $70 per return.

Why Tax Software is Cheapest

One thing to note is that each tax preparation option is working a different price-point. Software is typically the cheapest–but don’t assume that cheapest means worst. Tax software can absolutely be the best option for you.

That’s because tax software has become extremely sophisticated over the years. Don’t look to a professional to outsmart the software, since they are probably just using a professional version of the software themselves.

Ultimately, tax software is cheap because all software is cheap. It’s a digital product that is easy to store and replicate. It may also offer the best tax preparation experience for a number of taxpayers and can be an excellent choice for your tax return.

Why Pay a CPA

That being said, going to a flesh-and-blood tax professional may be the best option for many taxpayers. That’s because a professional CPA can help you navigate the difficult tax questions like business structure, tax planning moves, etc. that pop up throughout the year.

Software has a harder time with this. You can’t have lunch with and discuss your small business with software.

CPAs are usually the most expensive option, but you’re paying for someone to help you with a difficult tax situation or simply to give you that extra assurance.

Check Out: Get a Quality CPA to Prepare Your Taxes

Retail Tax Prep Splits the Difference

Right down the middle is the retail tax preparation–the places where you see the dancing statue of liberty outside. This option generally costs less than a CPA but more than DIY tax software, and it offers the middle ground in terms of professional support, as well.

Retail tax prep is there to serve the client who wants a bit of help but doesn’t want a premium practitioner on an on-going basis. If you don’t have tax questions throughout the year, but still feel a little overwhelmed by tax preparation, the retail option could be the best choice for you.

Check Out: These 7 Strategies Save Us Thousands Each Year in Taxes

Getting Ready to Do Your Taxes

If even thinking about filing your taxes has you breaking out in a sweat, you’re not alone. Our tax code is huge and confusing and it’s very common for people to dread doing their taxes. But just getting started can feel empowering, and there’s no need to stress.

This year, start by getting a folder (paper or digital) and collecting anything you think you might need. Also, review last year’s tax return. This will give you, or your CPA, an idea of what this year’s taxes will probably look like and will help you get ideas as to the information you will need.

Once you know the forms and documentation you will need for this year’s taxes, commit to keeping track of these things during 2019. This will make doing your taxes next year less stressful. For example, if you find out this year you need all your medical receipts from 2018, create a system for keeping track of those throughout 2019. That way you don’t have to go digging next year.

Take Time to Understand Your Taxes

I can’t stress this enough: there is no substitute for your own personal knowledge of your tax information. Unless your situation is extremely simple, no one but you could possibly know the complete ins and outs of your financial situation.

You should really strive to understand your own taxes, even if from a high level. Start with last year’s return. Look at the different sections (income, deductions, itemized deductions and exemptions, credits, and tax payments) and understand learn how they work together.

If you use a CPA, have them thoroughly review the return with you so that you understand what they did. A tax preparer of any kind (software, retail, professional) should really just be for assurance, not so that you can turn a blind eye to what is going on.

Get started with TurboTax.

Want to use the CPA that I use to get my taxes done? Check out my Dad, Larry G. Taylor, CPA.

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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 this website 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. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.

Comments

  1. Sandra Brown says

    Does any of them not charge if one of the filers is over 65?

  2. I still use a CPA even though my return is quite simple and one that seems to think they are giving me a discount (around $375) 😉 – – I get comfort knowing that the return was prepared by a CPA that I have entrusted for many years, although I know I can do it myself (as good) for much cheaper – –

    Would be interesting to get anyone’s take on data privacy concerns using the retail services?? I just have an issue handing over such personal information to a stranger – I don’t know this person, how do I know for sure my info is safe??

  3. Retail tax offices often employ CPAs and enrolled agents, so don’t automatically rule them out. What’s important is that the person doing your taxes is willing to explain exactly what they did so that you understand. If they aren’t willing to explain, they may be doing something either that they don’t understand, or incorrectly, or deliberately wrong.

    I have corrected previous year taxes that had been prepared by every chain, many mom and pop offices, free tax prep by AARP, CPAs, and taxpayers using either software or paper. The vast majority were done incorrectly due to ignorance or lack of proper information gathering. But sometimes they were maliciously done incorrectly to inflate refunds.

    So, find someone you truly trust!

  4. it’s given a Pleasure info here to get all the details at one place, if you learn to do your personal taxes using a test software, we could save a lot of money. enjoying while reading this Blog

  5. I have been filing my taxed using Turbo Tax for several years now. My tax return is fairly complicated. I spend about 10 hours spread over 2-3 weeks entering and reviewing all the information for accuracy before I submit it.
    This way I understand every part of my tax return.

    If I have a question, I call IRS on the phone (if the question is related to federal taxes), or my state tax office (if the question is related to state taxes). They are pretty good at answering your questions.

    If you learn to do your personal taxes using a tax software, you could save a lot of money over the years rather than going to a CPA or an accountant.

  6. I am super-lucky in that my father-in-law works for H&R block part-time each year. He has done our taxes for the past 10+years.

    I would recommend H&R block if you are looking for something quick and cheap. I suspect that you can get higher quality, and perhaps a larger refund, if you went with a CPA though.

  7. I have a CPA do mine every year since I have very complicated taxes. I am pretty knowledgeable on taxes and I could do them myself, but I’m sure it would take me hours and hours to do so and I’m not sure I’d get them right.

    Using a CPA is the right choice for me now.

    That said, when I retire I might start doing them myself.

  8. More than likely I will go to one of the big tax chains to get my taxes done because I don’t want the headache of trying to solve the tax issues on my own.