Ever since I had my first job and had to file taxes, I have taken the easy out and used the same accountant as my parents. As I transitioned from high school to college to the workforce, the fees have grown to a point where I finally decided it was worth exploring doing them myself. This also nicely lined up with a year that was simple enough I was confident I could not mess them up. One job, one state, one house, ect.
Accountant vs TurboTax: Cost Comparison
As cost is what finally pushed me to filing my own taxes, I looked for an easy to use, inexpensive program. Friends had recently used Turbotax so I went with that option. This year TurboTax also gave Amazon gift cards for referrals.
Right from the start I opted for purchasing the premium version. There is a free federal tax option which is great. However, I decided to pay the $40 to include the ability to itemize out of paranoia. To electronically file state taxes it was an additional $20. However, this $60 added up to much less than the $300 I was quoted by an accountant.
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Difficulty and Time
I was extremely impressed with the simplicity and speed of using Turbotax. Right off the start it imported my W-2 and filled out almost all of my information. It then asked a series of questions and had me elaborate when it found information that affected my return. In the end the only information that I had to manually input was my mortgage and my charitable donations.
From start to finish it was two hours and thirty minutes. This includes the hour I took to double check everything. If you are still worried Turbotax has an option for help in case of an audit that will walk you through the process in case of an audit.
Hands down Turbotax was a much quicker process. With an accountant I had to package up all of my information and deliver it. Followed by me waiting for them to get around to it. It generally took at least two weeks once they were sent off to get the initial figures and any questions or suggestions that they had. Once completed, it took another 5 days for my taxes to be filed.
Control over your information
There is a nice peace of mind when you do not have to hand over a packet to an accountant that includes all of your personal financial information. It was a nice change instead of worrying about sending that packet through the mail and then worrying about a one man shops security measures. While I have never experienced having any of it get lost in the mail, the possibility is still out there.
Without question I believe that if you are in a unique or difficult situation you should consult a licensed tax professional. They may be able to give you the advice you need in order to work the tax code to your advantage. This year my situation was as simple as it has ever been and a good starting point. Hands down the decision to use TurboTax saved me a lot of money and made my taxes simple.
Whether you use a tax professional or do your taxes yourself, the outcome should be the same. In either case the software and the accountant have the same information to work with. Therefore the results should not vary. Whether you get a return or owe money is not the fault of either method. It is just the reconciliation of your specific situation over the previous year.