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I usually do my own taxes using tax prep software. Several things have changed for my tax situation this year and it will be the first time that I itemize. What are the PROs and CONs of using a tax preparation service/cpa?

Would it be worth my money to pay someone else to do my taxes? I think I can probably handle it on my own - with the tax prep software and a little research - however, I have been advised by others to have someone else do my taxes since this will be the first time I itemize.

I don't want to miss out on any deductions or make any mistakes that would be costly - but I don't want to pay someone to tell me what I can figure out on my own. How much does it typically cost for tax prep by a cpa/prep service?

Any suggestions?


It sounds like your main concern is being sure to itemize on Schedule A correctly and completely. For the most part, the 1040 instructions are pretty helpful. You might also ask IRS for a copy of Pub 17, the "bible" for preparing most tax returns.

If you are a moderate income taxpayer, you can obtain FREE tax preparation help at a volunteer-staffed VITA or TCE site. The IRS supports many of these sites at local libraries in larger cities; if you have a local IRS office call to find a site near you (see the Government listings in your phone book). The AARP Tax-Aide Foundation also staffs TCE sites at neighborhood or senior centers and other organizations all around the country. Just type in your ZIP at www.aarp.org/taxaide to find a site near you, or call 1-888-AARPNOW (227-7669). Many of the sites can e-file your return; all can prepare a paper return for you to mail in.

VITA and Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and required to pass an IRS test to be certified as tax preparers.

The volunteers will direct you to a paid tax-preparer if you have a complicated return (e.g., rental property, royalties, depreciable equipment or buildings).

Karl, a Tax-Aide volunteer
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