There are many variables when it comes to the Internal Revenue Code and the reasonable answer is, it depends. The best advise I can give is to do your research and be proactive. This also entails knowing and understanding what forms you file. Ultimately, it is your name, money and responsibility (you could prepare your own returns) but a knowledgeable tax preparer can save you hundreds or even thousands on your bottom line. Not to mention the time you could save because sometimes it’s also about experience.
* From irs.gov: Instructions for form 1040
For instance, the estimated average time burden for all taxpayers filing a Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ is 13 hours, with an average cost of $200 per return. This average includes all associated forms and schedules, across all preparation methods and taxpayer activities. The average burden for taxpayers filing Form 1040 is about 16 hours and $260; the average burden for taxpayers filing Form 1040A is about 8 hours and $80; and the average for Form 1040EZ filers is about 5 hours and $40.
The interview. If you don’t have participate in one, that tax preparer probably isn’t for you. It could be in person, over the phone, or even via e-mail. Questions like:
- What’s your annual income? A ballpark is fine. Are you an employee or self-employed? Or Both?.
- Do you or did you have any dependents? A common misconception is that you “file the easy form” while claiming dependents and that is not the case. In fact, included in form 1040EZ’s title is Department of the Treasury—Internal Revenue Service Income Tax Return for Single and Joint Filers With No Dependents
- Did you make any contributions or withdrawals to an IRA?
- Are you a student and/or do you have student loan interest you’ve paid?
Additionally, to ensure the best price for tax prep and also the ensure the least possible taxable income (pay less tax) it’s imperative that all of the necessary documents are available at the time of preparation. So, do not arrive to your tax appointment without your W2’s or without your mortgage interest statement or your 1099’s.
Those of you who know me personally know that I don’t do excuses, and the ‘I forgot my homework/ Dog ate my homework’ doesn’t apply here. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, open all of the documents you’ve set aside that say TAX DOCUMENTS. Get a visual of what you’ve received so that you know what your missing. Then on a separate sheet of paper make notes about the additional items you may need:
- Charitable Contributions
- Out of pocket medical expenses
- Student costs and 1098T from the school
- Dependents birthday’s and Social Security numbers, etc.
With that said, Good Luck on your search to find the best tax preparer for you!