Judging from comments I’ve gotten when I’ve mentioned my accountant, I’m not the only one who wonders whether paying a substantial fee to have another human prepare my tax returns is worth it, especially in this day and age of tax prep software. Gina over at Lifehacker wondered the same thing. Only this year she used both to do a side by side comparison.
It turns out that TurboTax came up with a smaller total of tax owed, but her accountant caught a mistake by one of her employers that TurboTax didn’t (apparently it didn’t affect the amount owed, though). And she doesn’t know yet why TurboTax reached a different result.
The best thing about Gina’s report, at least for me, was this sentence:
There are always questions inside TurboTax that you respond to with just a tinge of doubt, and just a few of those can mount into a larger sense of uncertainty.
It’s precisely this feeling that causes me to pay between $500 and $1000 to have my tax returns prepared for me. (Did that number make you cringe? Me too. I haven’t received my bill for this year yet, and I’m praying it’s on the lower end of that range.)
So I guess whether you should hire a human accountant comes down, at least to some degree, to your risk tolerance. Mine is fairly low – primarily because of the potential consequences (all of my hair would probably turn white if I received an audit notice and I wasn’t sure I’d done everything right). So I’ll stick with an accountant for the foreseeable future.
What about you? Do you think it’s worth paying an accountant?