You can always count on seeing certain ads this time of year – diet plans, gym memberships, stop-smoking aids, and tax services. When it comes to that last one, more and more of them in recent years focus on do-it-yourself solutions. Or maybe those are the ones that stick out to me because, of course, I’m going to tell you that using them is often not the best choice.
Many of the ads you see harp on the fact that you simply can file taxes yourself without help. Many even say you can do your federal taxes for free (which really just means they’re going to get you to pay when it comes time to file the state forms). I am certainly not going to say that it is impossible for people to file taxes on their own. You could follow a program’s questionnaire and end up with a legal tax return at the end of the process. I will, however, say that it is very difficult to file the most beneficial tax return on your own.
The thing with taxes is that for many people it is easy to report your taxable income. Most of it even comes on forms you will receive over the next month or so. You will plug in the numbers from the appropriate boxes and eventually come up to a final number that the IRS will tax you on. Much more difficult (and this is kind of by design) is knowing all the deductions and credits you may qualify for to lower your tax burden.
You see, with those pieces, you don’t always get a form that lets you know how it fits onto your tax return. And if there are pieces you don’t know about, how will you know to include them when filing? Or maybe you heard from someone else that there are some things you can claim on your taxes. Do you know where they will be included? Do you know if all of the amount is allowed to be deducted?
My view when it comes to who can file their own taxes is that it never hurts, and can immensely help, to have a professional’s hands on it. Even when it comes to very simple returns there can be issues, such as if a child and a parent are making sure they stay consistent with their status as a dependent. These are problems that software can’t always foresee, for it will just use the answer you give it. A live person can urge you to make a one-minute phone call or get the paperwork to make sure everything is correct.
A live person will also listen to your story of who you are. To software, you are just the answers to its questions. You are not only the story of what you do for work, what your family looks like, and how you earn and spend your money. Someone who seeks to understand your whole picture, not just where you’ve been but also where you’re going, gives you the comfort that someone cares, and it also gives you the confidence that they are helping you use your situation to your greatest advantage.
Taxes aren’t simple and people aren’t simple. That complexity deserves to be appreciated and we are proud to do our part to be better than computerized forms when it comes to getting you all that you deserve this time of year.
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To ensure we don't make the folks at the IRS ornery, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.