Why I hire a tax professional instead of doing my own taxes

by Nick on March 22, 2012

It’s the most… wonderful time… of the year…. It’s tax time!

That’s right.  I love tax time.  It’s not that I like paying taxes (I don’t).  But there’s something fun about closing out the year and getting all the numbers down on paper.  Call me crazy (go ahead, it’s fine).  Plus, although we can disagree about “how much” taxes we should pay and “for what” they should be used, I understand that they’re here to stay and I need to pay whatever the rules require.  So there’s no reason for me sit and pout about something I can’t really change.

So… last night was the night.  I got home and had a FedEx waiting for me from my tax gal.  I couldn’t wait to get upstairs to open it up, so I rrrrripped it open in the elevator and there they were: my 2011 tax docs, along with a cover letter, a couple of “sign here” pages and two payment vouchers.  Oh oh, payment vouchers, I thought.  It’s all good.  I’d rather pay a few bucks than get a return.  (Yes, I’m one of those “don’t give the feds free loans” folks.)

Happily, if she did everything right (semi-big if… long story… but I looked them over very quickly and they seem fine…) between writing a check to the Feds, getting a refund from NY, and writing a check to Gov. Christie, I’ll end up paying about $400.  Not too shabby!  I’ll take it.

It certainly cost me a few bucks to have this all done – $475 to be exact.  But it was worth every penny (again, assuming they did everything right…).  You couldn’t pay me enough to do my own taxes (I’m exaggerating – you definitely could, but it would be a lot…).  I love numbers and don’t mind the tax code, but I have no interest in spending the time to do it.

And it turns out the brilliant and attractive folks over at WiseBread agree with me, listing three reasons to hire a tax pro even if you don’t mind the work.  (Yes, I know they’re brilliant and attractive because of this and this :)  Dumb, ugly people don’t give shout-outs to SAFTM.)

Curious as to the 3 reasons?  Let’s dig in:

  • You can focus on saving more money.  I like saving more money… My tax gal is just “up” on more tax crap than I am, so I believe she finds me as much as she can and more than I would, even with some animated paper clip asking if I had any more deductions…
  • You can get advice if you’re audited.  I’m sure I’ll be audited one of these days.  I have way too many 1099s, W2s and deductions to not get audited.  Plus my 2009 taxes were filled with drama, so I’m sure there’s a file on me over at the IRS.  That being said, I’m really not incredibly aggressive with my taxes and the 2009 drama was a stupid mistake by my tax gal, which she discovered the next year so I filed an amended return.  I also should have caught the mistake.  Long story short, she entered my then-working wife’s W2 more than once, so my original return showed we made a lot more than we did and then had to write a large check.  I was so swamped at work that I just signed the papers and wrote the check.  When she discovered the eff-up, we filed an amended return asking for a large chunk of cash back, which we got.  Then last month the IRS sent me a bill for about $1,100, including penalties and interest for 2009 (after writing me a check for way more than that just a few months ago…).  As you can see, there were a lot of moving parts (the IRS even lost my file for a while…).  You see why I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they want to do a full audit to confirm everything is legit?  (Don’t worry, it is.)  So I like that I’ll have someone to represent me (or for me to blame) if that happens!  For a few hundred bucks, it’s totally worth it for this alone.
  • You have another point of contact for your financial needs.  I had a pretty good conversation with my tax gal the other day about tax planning.  I’ll definitely save more than the $475 they charge me in 2012.  For example, I don’t plan on leaving many losses on the table at the end of this year.  I had a few more losses I could have locked in for 2011, but I was too dumb and lazy to do it (again, swamped at work so I prioritized making it through a big project – not an “unwise” move considering my gig pays me more than the tax write-off could have provided, although I could have done both, I’m sure…).  Basically, I generally try and sell stocks, no-fee mutual funds and ETFs that are down in December to lock in investment losses to offset gains and then shift that money into other funds.  It’s a great way to not change much about my portfolio other than tax treatment (in essence I’m buying the new investment at a discount of my tax savings from selling the losses).

Those 3 reasons alone are worth way more than the $475 I spent.  No question.  

Not convinced?  Wait!  There’s more!

You know me better than to keep my mouth shut and stop at three, right?  :)  No way I can resist adding another from yours truly.  Have you ever tried to do your own taxes?  Well I have… and it’s painful!!!  I’m pretty sure I’d rather watch the movie Glitter in slow motion three times than do my taxes once!  Yes, that painful…

In fact, just for the fun of it I took my copy of the crap I sent to my tax gal and started some tax pro software federal return this year.  (yes, pretty masochistic, I know…)  After about 45 minutes I was ready to throw myself in front of a moving train… and I wasn’t even halfway done.  Never again.

So yeah, in addition to having a point of contact for financial needs, learning ways to maximize tax savings and having someone to blame or represent me in an audit, I’m happy paying a few hundred bucks to avoid having to lock myself in a padded room with no shoelaces or belt just to safely navigate tax software….

So there you have it.  3 reasons to hire a tax pro and one bonus reason from me.  

How many of you are DIYers?  How many folks are all tax pros all the time?  Any reasons I forgot to list for going pro?  What about DIYers?  Are your taxes just too simple to justify the cost?  Or are you just into pain… Oh, and DIYers, how long did it take you to put your taxes together this year? 

Until next time, put your credit card down and slowly step away from the mall!

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