Certified Public Accountant or Online Tax Filing Service? …That is the Question

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Tax season is here – and with the proliferation of tax software and online tax preparation services over the last several years, many taxpayers are wondering if it is more advantageous to use these services or to rely on a certified public accountant.

The answer is not always straightforward, and it is often dependent on personal preference. But while automated tax preparation technology has come a long way and can make the process easier for taxpayers in a number of ways, there are still a number of distinct advantages to utilizing the skills of a CPA.

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The first advantage to having your taxes done by a certified tax specialist is that if there is any kind of problem with your return, the CPA can work with the IRS on your behalf. It is easy for laypersons to be intimidated by the Internal Revenue Service – largely because they lack the knowledge and experience to be able to locate and resolve errors on their own. But they also lack the expertise to argue their case.

Some say that hiring a tax professional is expensive. Depending on your budget and income perhaps it can be. But typically, mistakes made on your taxes can end up being far more costly than the expense of hiring a professional.

Many people who have a simple return with few or no deductions still can benefit from utilizing the expertise of a tax professional. It is often difficult to determine exactly what should go into a tax return and what should not, and even the simplest returns sometimes require a trained eye to find things that unskilled people – or even online services and software programs – might miss.

The bottom line is that software isn’t guaranteed to catch all of the little things that should be included in a return. So, in the end there really is no substitute for the trained eye of a CPA.