Tax preparation software can be a helpful tool for getting your taxes done quickly and accurately. But popular tax software such as TurboTax and H&R Block can be confusing to navigate, particularly for people with more complex tax returns. You may encounter confusing IRS rules, miss deductions and credits, or find that you’re missing documents.
Talking to a tax professional about your specific situation can help take the stress out of doing your taxes, save you valuable time and money, and helps ensure your return is filed accurately.
Who Are Tax Professionals?
Enrolled agents can prepare your taxes, provide tax-related advice, and represent you before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). What sets enrolled agents apart from other tax professionals is that they are federally enrolled to practice before the IRS by the US Department of the Treasury.
Enrolled agents can become licensed in one of two ways:
- Pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE)
- Have at least five years of past experience as an IRS employee
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accountant qualified to provide tax services to the public. To become a licensed CPA, one must:
- Have a relevant bachelor's degree
- Pass the Uniform CPA Exam
- Meet minimum postgraduate education requirements
- Have at least one year of practical accounting experience
- Complete at least 120 hours of continuing education every three years
Tax attorneys are well informed in tax law and can perform a variety of tax-related services to individuals and business entities, including preparing and filing taxes as well as providing legal representation during disputes. Tax attorneys must:
- Earn a relevant bachelor's degree
- Earn a graduate law degree
- Pass the bar exam
- Meet continuing education requirements to maintain certification
Talking to a Tax Professional Before Using Tax Software Can Save You Money
Many people avoid making an appointment with a tax professional before using online tax software because they’re concerned about the cost. But using high-quality tax tools also comes at a cost, and a single appointment with a tax professional can save you a significant amount of money when you file, especially if you have a complicated situation.
Here are some instances in which talking to a tax professional is beneficial:
1. You Make Foreign Income
With a few key exemptions, US citizens and resident aliens must pay taxes on all worldwide income to the IRS. But reporting foreign income is more complex than paying taxes on money made within the US.
It’s important to make sure you report this income correctly, and there are some specific deductions you may be able to take advantage of when it comes to foreign sources of income. A tax professional knows the ins and outs of the system and can help save you money.
2. You’re Not Taking the Standard Deduction
Most taxpayers take the standard deduction, but it’s worth taking the time to determine if itemizing deductions could reduce your overall tax burden. For example, if you’re a business owner and have expenses related to web hosting, rent, or equipment, you may be able to save money by itemizing.
A qualified tax professional will be able to maximize your deductions. They’ll also be able to help defend these deductions if they’re questioned on your return.
3. You Had a Major Life Event
If you had a life event that changed your financial situation, there may be important tax implications to consider. Getting married or divorced, moving to a new home, having a child, or acquiring rental property are all examples of situations in which talking to a professional may be beneficial.
4. Sloppy Bookkeeping
Life can be hectic, and many people don’t keep a perfect record of their finances. It’s easy to miss things and end up overpaying or underpaying when tax season rolls around. A tax professional knows exactly what needs to be reported and how, which can help you avoid an IRS audit. In the event you are contacted by the IRS, your tax professional will be able to help protect your interests.
5. You Have Investments
An extensive investment portfolio can significantly complicate your tax returns, causing stress and increasing the likelihood of errors. A tax professional will have the knowledge and experience to handle even the most complicated tax returns.
6. You’re Busy
According to the IRS, the average non-business taxpayer spends about 8 hours filing individual returns.
The time commitment associated with tax season can be especially burdensome for those with complicated returns or those dealing with disputes, audits, or other disruptions. A qualified tax professional has the expertise and time needed to effectively prepare and file your return so that you have more time for the things that truly matter.
How Often Should I Meet With My Tax Professional?
Most people only meet with their tax professional once a year before their tax return is due. However, maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your tax professional is invaluable, especially if you’re a business owner, maintain multiple investments, or have an especially complicated return.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to meet with your tax professional at least twice a year. If you own a business, quarterly check-ins are ideal. Keep in mind that you can usually meet with your tax professional via phone or video call.
Talk To A Chatterton Tax Professional in Orange County
Before using online tax software to file your return, consider speaking to our highly qualified tax professionals at Chatterton & Associates. Not only do we provide tax preparation services for individual and business returns, but we also offer financial and tax planning, business accounting, and IRS representation services.
We’re honored to help individuals and families save time and money on their taxes and grow their wealth to achieve financial security and success. Contact us today to discuss your situation and get your questions answered.
The Team at Chatterton & Associates
Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, it cannot be guaranteed. Federal tax laws are complex and subject to change. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. Neither Royal Alliance Associates, Inc nor its representatives provide tax or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, you should consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice.