Hire an Accountant or DIY?

In the first three and a half months of every year, a lot of people struggle with the question of whether to do their own taxes or to hire a tax preparer.

On one hand, creatives tend to be very DIY oriented.  On the other hand, creatives prefer to spend as little time as possible mucking around with taxes and things financial.  It’s quite the dilemma.

I first prepared my own tax return while I was in middle school.  Um, yeah, I’m weird like that.

I had earned some money from a cool summer job at the local science museum and come the next April, I wanted to understand what all the fuss was about.

I had no desire to become a CPA.  No pubescent urge to calculate.  It really was just a challenge to learn something new.  Like I said, I’m weird like that.

In the almost 30 years since, I’ve only had a CPA do my taxes once.  And in all those years, I’ve only once received a nice little notice from the IRS saying that I’d neglected to include some 1099 income.

Three guesses which year that was.  Yep, the one year I didn’t do my own taxes.

Out of fairness to the guy–he was my parent’s CPA, as I was still years away from becoming one myself–the 1099 in question probably just fell out of the stack of papers that went to him.

But ultimately, as the IRS and recent tax cases reiterate, the taxpayer is responsible for making sure the tax return is accurate and is timely filed even when a tax preparer or tax attorney has been hired.

So what’s a creative to do?

The good people at Lifehacker have written a few quality articles that ponder this very question.  Rather than rehash them in detail here, I’ve put the links at the bottom of this article.  They’re worth a full read.

To summarize them, though, the answer to the question of whether or not to do your own taxes is an absolutely unqualified maybe.

Do your own taxes if you have the time and bandwidth, if you’d like the challenge, or if you have a simple, straight-forward tax situation.  Outsource your tax prep if you don’t have the time or the bandwidth, if you’d rather not be bothered, or if you have a complex tax situation.


From Lifehacker:

Should I Prepare My Own Taxes?

Battle of the Human Accountant Versus TurboTax.com

How Do I Find a Good Tax Professional?