Tax filing season is in full swing and someone is going to be preparing your tax return for you.
You might say, but I’m going to be using a software program like TurboTax or TaxAct. Then, they are preparing your tax return are they not?
One is really only preparing their own tax return if they get the paper forms out and fill out those numbers by hand looking carefully at the hundreds/thousands of lines of instructions and illustrations.
NO ONE does that anymore-OK maybe 1% of the 1% does it that way. But seriously NO ONE.
Should I use a tax software or a live person?
TurboTax and other tax software products can be helpful-for a LIMITED number of people. If you have a very simple tax return, with only W-2 wage income AND that W-2 has NO numbers on it after line 6 (Medicare tax withheld) then you will probably be fine; and, if you are single.
If you are married with children and have ANY type of income beyond a W-2 you should be using a QUALIFIED tax professional.
I say qualified because not all tax preparers’ (even those who are “registered”) are qualified. My office has two CPA’s and an Enrolled Agent (a person who has taken a rigorous exam and must prove their ability each year by taking over 20 hours of continuing education each year). I have over 30 years of experience. My fellow CPA has six years of experience. My Enrolled Agent has 8 years of experience.
The problem with using a tax software program is simply this…..
You don’t know what you don’t know
Here are just a couple of illustrations. These are COMMON situations in my tax office.
You are married and you both work. Your spouse has a prior tax problem and your refund is going to pay that problem. The “problem” could be a host of things but most commonly it’s back child support. Question-should you file a joint return or a separate return? The computer program won’t tell you unless you already know what to do!!
Answer. You should almost NEVER file a separate return. But there are a FEW times when you should. Do you know when those times are? There is a form you can file called “Injured Spouse Allocation”. Its form number 8379. That form will protect your refund from the tax problems of your spouse and you won’t be lowering your overall refund by filing separate. Will the tax software tell you that? NO! And it could cost you thousands of dollars in confiscated refund money. How does that $35-$100 tax software fee look now? Not knowing is costing you a lot more than $35.
Here is another situation. You are divorced with children. This is the year your ex gets to claim the kids. Does you software tell you how to give the exemption to the ex while retaining the credits for you? After all, in most of these cases the children live with you not the ex. Not knowing the answer to this question can literally cost you over $5,000; and the tax program will NOT tell you how to do it. YOU have to know already and YOU have to tell the tax software program what to do.
And all this is just on PAGE ONE of the 1040. There are dozens of other common traps that will cost you money.
We have saved our clients thousands-yes-THOUSANDS of dollars in taxes because WE KNOW. We don’t rely on the software program to tell us tax law. We use the software programs for efficiency. We use it to file electronically. We don’t use it to teach us tax law.
Come see us this year.