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Are you finally ready to conquer your 2022 tax return, but using your indecision re: TurboTax vs CPA as an excuse to not get started?
If this is you – sorry, but that excuse can be tossed after you read this article.
In this blog post, I’ll break down the pros and cons of TurboTax vs CPA so you can make an informed decision that works best for you.
So, grab a cup of tea, put on your favorite playlist, and let’s get after it.
What is TurboTax?
TurboTax is a popular tax preparation software that helps individuals and small businesses file their taxes online. It’s been around for over 30 years and has become one of the most trusted and reliable tax prep software software programs on the market.
The software is designed to guide you through each step of the tax filing process, from entering your personal and income information to calculating your deductions and credits. It also checks for errors and helps you avoid common mistakes that could delay your refund or result in penalties.
One of the best things about TurboTax is that it offers different service levels to meet your needs and budget. You can choose from a free version for simple tax returns or pay for a more advanced version with more features and support.
TurboTax also offers a “Max Refund Guarantee” feature, which helps you get the biggest tax refund possible. It does this by searching over 350 tax deductions and credits and providing guidance on maximizing your refund.
How to use TurboTax to file your taxes
Filing your taxes can be daunting, but with TurboTax, it doesn’t have to be.
TurboTax is a user-friendly software that can help you prepare and file your taxes quickly and easily. In this step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through the process of using TurboTax to file your taxes, so you can get the biggest refund possible or minimize your tax liability.
Here’s what you’ll do:
- First, visit the TurboTax website and choose the version that best fits your needs. TurboTax offers different service levels, so pick the one that works best for you.
- Create an account and log in to your TurboTax account.
- Follow the prompts to enter your personal and income information. TurboTax will ask you questions about your financial situation. You’ll simply answer them by filling in the appropriate fields.
- TurboTax will then use your information to calculate your tax liability and identify any deductions or credits that you may qualify for. It’ll help you maximize your refund or minimize your tax liability.
- Once you’ve completed all the necessary steps, TurboTax will review your return for any errors or missing information. It’ll also double-check your math to ensure that everything is accurate.
- If everything looks good, you can file your tax return electronically. TurboTax will transmit your return directly to the IRS, and you’ll receive a confirmation once it’s been accepted.
- Finally, if you’re due a refund, you can have it deposited directly into your bank account or receive a check in the mail.
And then you can finally let 2022 go!
What if you need help?
The good news is that TurboTax is committed to providing its users with the support and resources they need to confidently file their taxes.
First, TurboTax has a comprehensive help center on its website, where you can find answers to common questions and browse articles on different tax topics. Or you can also chat with a TurboTax specialist online or call their customer support hotline to speak with a representative.
For more complex tax situations or if you just want extra peace of mind, they also offer an Ask a Tax Expert service, which lets you connect with a licensed tax professional who can answer your questions and provide guidance on your tax situation.
I tried it out: I used the Ask a Tax Expert service when I filed my taxes this year and had my answer within 5 minutes!
How much does TurboTax cost?
TurboTax offers free ways to complete your tax return based on how involved you want to be.
Do it yourself
What you get:
- Simple guidance to file your own taxes
- One-on-one product support
- Easily scan, upload, or import your docs
- Maximum refund guarantee
- Audit support guarantee
Do it with you
What you get: Everything in DIY, plus…
- Unlimited help from tax experts
- Final expert review before filing
- Year-round support
- Expert-approved guarantee
Do it for you
What you get: Everything in and do it with you, plus…
- Expert matched to your situation and facts
- Experts completes taxes for you in real-time
- Expert signs and files your return
Advantages of using TurboTax
Personally, I find TurboTax to be a reliable and convenient way to file your taxes. It can save you time, money, and stress and help you get the biggest refund possible.
But let’s get a little more specific on how you can benefit from using TurboTax:
- Ease of use: TurboTax is designed to be user-friendly and straightforward, so even if you’re not a tax expert, you can still file your taxes with confidence. The software guides you through each process step and checks for errors to ensure accuracy.
- Time-saving: TurboTax can save much time compared to doing your taxes by hand or going to a tax professional. It does the calculations for you and can automatically import your W-2 and other tax documents, so you don’t have to spend hours tracking down information.
- Cost-effective: TurboTax offers different service levels to fit your needs and budget, including a free version for simple tax returns. You can also save money by avoiding the high fees charged by tax professionals.
- Maximizes your refund: TurboTax searches for over 350 tax deductions and credits to help you get the biggest refund possible. It can also provide guidance on how to maximize your deductions and credits.
- Security: TurboTax uses top-notch encryption and security measures to protect your personal and financial information.
Whether or not you decide to use TurboTax depends on your needs and preferences. However, TurboTax is worth considering if you’re looking for a reliable and convenient way to file your taxes.
Disadvantages of using Turbotax
While there are many advantages to using TurboTax to file your taxes, nothing is perfect.
So I would be letting you down if I didn’t also share the potential downsides of using TurboTax (or any tax software):
- Cost: While TurboTax does offer a free version for simple tax returns, the cost can add up quickly if you need a more comprehensive level of service. So, choosing the right version for your needs and budget is important.
- Technical Issues: Like with any software, there is always a chance of technical issues or glitches when using TurboTax. This can be frustrating if it causes delays or errors in your tax filing process.
- Limited Interpersonal Interaction: While TurboTax offers a range of support options, including online chat and phone support, some people may prefer to have in-person interaction with a tax professional for more complex tax situations.
- Inability to Navigate Uncommon Tax Situations: While TurboTax is designed to handle most tax situations, it may not handle extremely complex tax situations requiring more expertise.
That said, for most people, the benefits of using TurboTax, such as ease of use, time-saving features, and maximizing your refund, may outweigh these potential downsides.
What is a CPA?
A CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, is a licensed professional who is trained to provide accounting and financial services to individuals and businesses.
CPAs are highly qualified and must pass a rigorous exam, meet specific educational requirements, and adhere to ethical standards to earn their certification. They are skilled in a variety of areas, including tax preparation, auditing, financial reporting, and consulting services.
Businesses often seek CPAs to help them manage their financial affairs and ensure compliance with regulations.
How to use a CPA to file your taxes
If you’re interested in using a CPA to file your taxes, there are a few things you should know. First, it’s important to find a reputable and experienced CPA who can provide the services you need. You can search online, ask for recommendations from friends and family, or check with professional organizations to find a CPA in your area.
Once you’ve found a CPA, you’ll need to provide them with all of the necessary documentation and information about your financial situation. This includes things like your income, expenses, deductions, and any investments or assets you have. Your CPA will then use this information to prepare your tax return and ensure that everything is accurate and compliant with tax laws.
How much does a CPA cost?
The cost of using a CPA to file your taxes may be higher than using tax software like TurboTax, due to the more personalized guidance and support included in the service.
And although the cost of using a CPA will vary according to the complexity of your tax situation, the location of the CPA, and the level of service you need, on average, hiring a CPA to prepare and file your taxes can cost several hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Advantages of using a CPA
Working with a CPA can be very beneficial, especially if you have a more complex financial situation or need help navigating tax laws and regulations.
You’ll also get:
- Expertise and knowledge: CPAs are highly trained and knowledgeable about tax laws and regulations, which means they can help you identify tax-saving opportunities and avoid mistakes that could lead to penalties or audits.
- Personalized service: A CPA can provide personalized advice and guidance tailored to your unique financial situation, helping you make informed decisions and develop a tax strategy that maximizes your benefits.
- Assistance with complex tax issues: If you have a complex financial situation, such as owning a business or having multiple sources of income, a CPA can provide valuable assistance in navigating the tax implications and optimizing your tax strategy.
- Representation in case of an audit: If you are audited by the IRS, a CPA can represent you and help you navigate the audit process, ensuring that your rights are protected and your case is presented in the best possible light.
- Peace of mind: By working with a CPA, you can have peace of mind knowing that your taxes are being handled by a qualified professional who has your best interests in mind. This can reduce stress and anxiety associated with the tax filing process.
Note: These points are based on the assumption that you have a good working relationship with your CPA, which may not always be the case.
Disadvantages of using a CPA
As with TurboTax, when considering using a CPA to file your taxes, you can’t just consider the good. You also have to consider the potential disadvantages:
- Higher cost: Using a CPA to file your taxes can be more expensive compared to using tax software or filing on your own.
- Limited availability: Finding a qualified and available CPA during tax season can be challenging, especially if you wait until the last minute.
- Time-consuming: Working with a CPA can be a time-consuming process, as it requires scheduling appointments and providing detailed financial information.
- Lack of control: When you work with a CPA, you are entrusting them with your financial information and decisions, which can make some people feel uncomfortable or out of control.
- Potential for errors: Even though CPAs are highly trained professionals, there is still a chance for errors or mistakes to occur when preparing your taxes.
Ultimately, the decision to use a CPA or not will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Still, it’s important to know the potential drawbacks before deciding.
TurboTax vs CPA: which is better?
Choosing between TurboTax vs CPA to handle your tax filing can be tough, as both options have advantages and disadvantages.
The better choice for you depends on your financial situation, level of comfort with technology, and preference for personalized service.
However, I can offer some high-level guidelines re: when TurboTax vs CPA is a better fit, and vice versa.
Who should use TurboTax?
TurboTax can be a great choice for individuals or families with relatively simple tax situations.
TurboTax may be a great fit for you if any of the following ring true about the year you’re filing your taxes for:
- You had only one or two sources of income: If you have a straightforward financial situation and earn income from only one or two sources, such as a single job or freelance work, then your tax situation is likely to be relatively simple.
- You had limited investment activity: If you don’t have a lot of investment activity, such as buying and selling stocks or other securities, then your tax situation is again likely to be relatively simple. TurboTax can easily handle basic investment activity, such as reporting dividend income or interest earned on savings accounts.
- There were no significant changes to your financial situation throughout the year: Did you get married, buy or sell a house, or have a child? If not, your tax situation will likely be similar to the previous year. In this case, TurboTax can often import the prior year’s tax return information, making the process even easier.
Of course, it’s important to note that even if your financial situation meets these criteria, there may still be some complications or questions that arise during the tax filing process.
For example, you may need to report freelance income or deduct business expenses, which can be more complex than simply reporting salary income. This was the case for me in 2022 as I registered an LLC. But TurboTax actually made it really easy.
So I wouldn’t let a little complexity sway you.
Who should hire a CPA?
If you have a more complex financial situation, it may be wise to consider hiring a CPA to file your taxes.
A CPA may be a great fit for you if any of the following ring true about the year you’re filing your taxes for:
- You own a business or have self-employment income: If you’re a business owner or freelancer, your tax situation can be more complicated than that of someone who earns income from a single employer. A CPA can help you navigate the complex tax implications of owning a business, including deductions and credits you may be eligible for.
- You have multiple sources of income: If you have income from multiple sources, such as investments or rental properties, your tax situation can be more complex. A CPA can help you optimize your tax strategy and ensure you take advantage of all available deductions and credits.
- You experienced significant life changes: If you got married, divorced, had a child, or experienced other significant life changes during the year, a CPA can help you navigate the tax implications of those changes. They can also provide guidance on minimizing the future tax impact of these changes.
- You want representation in case of an audit: If you’re concerned about the possibility of an IRS audit, hiring a CPA can provide peace of mind. A CPA can represent you during an audit and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.
While TurboTax can be an excellent choice for simple tax situations, hiring a CPA can provide invaluable expertise and guidance for those with more complex financial situations.
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Questions to ask before deciding between TurboTax vs CPA
If you’re deciding between TurboTax vs CPA, there are some important questions you should ask yourself to determine which option is right for you.
Here are some questions to consider:
- How complex is your financial situation? Do you have multiple sources of income, investments, or own a business?
- Do you have experience with tax preparation? Are you comfortable navigating tax forms and regulations on your own?
- How much time do you have to dedicate to tax preparation? Can you invest the necessary time to ensure accurate and thorough filing?
- Are you looking for personalized advice and guidance on tax planning and strategy?
- Are you concerned about potential audits or disputes with the IRS?
- Do you have records and files that are well-organized and up-to-date?
By considering these questions, you can determine whether TurboTax vs CPA is better for your unique financial situation and needs.
TurboTax vs CPA: whatever you use, here’s what you need to do to prepare
Whether you’re planning to use TurboTax or work with a CPA to file your taxes, there are a few important steps you should take to prepare federal tax returns. By following these steps, you can help ensure that the tax filing process goes smoothly and that you’re able to maximize your deductions and credits.
- Gather all your tax documents: Before you start preparing your taxes, you’ll need to gather all the necessary documents. This includes your W-2 or 1099 forms, receipts for any deductible expenses, and documentation of any investment activity.
- Review your previous year’s return: Look at your previous year’s tax return to refresh your memory on any deductions or credits you claimed. This can help ensure you don’t miss anything when preparing for your return this year.
- Organize your records: Make sure your files and records are to quickly find the information you need when preparing your taxes. This is especially important if you’re working with a CPA. Having organized records can help expedite the process and save you money on fees.
And remember, whether you’re using TurboTax or working with a CPA, the most important thing is to be thorough and organized in your approach.
Good luck! You got this.
Why I use TurboTax vs CPA
I have a master’s degree in tax and still don’t do my taxes 100% myself. But I’m also not quite at a point where my financial profile is so complex that I felt the need to hire a CPA.
Here’s my 2022 facts for your reference:
- One employee income stream
- Opened a business (LLC) and generated freelance income
- Minimal investment movements
- Two savings accounts
- No kids
- Washington state
- No house
- No major purchases
Beyond starting a business, this all pretty basic stuff. Plus, I tracked my income and expenses from my business all year. I had the information readily available, so I felt comfortable filing on my own despite the heightened complexity.
So I set aside one Saturday afternoon, hunkered down at a coffee shop, and was done in less than 2 hours. (I know because TurboTax gamifies the process by letting you race the timer. And I like to win. So you better believe I was focused).
Easy, breezy. Finding all the documents I needed was harder than filing the actual return.
All that said, if you’re looking for a convenient and cost-effective solution for your taxes, I highly recommend giving TurboTax a try. Trust me, your bank account (and sanity) will thank you!