Do I need an accountant?
December 17, 2010 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Do I need to start using an accountant?

I've never needed an accountant before to file my taxes. I'm unmarried, and I've always filed a 1040EZ as I've always been a renter with a single W-2 to report, and if I ever had a 1099 it was from an interest bearing savings account. This year, I purchased a home and have been collecting rent from a friend who has been staying in one of my spare bedrooms for the last 4 months. I also started grad school part-time which I'm financing with Federal Stafford loans.

So I've always had pretty good success with TurboTax, but since my situation is starting to become more complicated I'm wondering if I'll get a bigger refund if I use a professional. And furthermore, will the larger refund be enough to warrant the accountant's fees?
posted by bhamrick to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Just as a personal observation, the deluxe or investor (or something, I can't remember which) versions of TurboTax cover rental properties. I personally have never seen a need for an accountant to file my taxes when I can get the computer to do it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:48 AM on December 17, 2010

It wouldn't hurt to do it one year- you can always look at it in later years as a guide for how to do some of these things.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2010

I suggest you get an accountant to walk you through filing your new tax situation. Assuming there will be no major changes coming up, you can do it on your own afterward. This goes double if you're the sort of person prone to messing up complex paperwork.
posted by griphus at 10:55 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also can have some fairly complicated taxes, and I've found H&R Block's TaxCut can definitely handle complicated taxes. But then again, I'm also super-cheap, and would rarely pay someone to do something if I confidently thought I could do it myself.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 10:55 AM on December 17, 2010

If your income is below 49K you can get a free appointment with some fairly knowledgeable volunteers:,,id=107626,00.html. Looks like they won't have the list of sites up until January but that might be a good way to get (free) advice that's enough for your situation.
posted by _Silky_ at 11:26 AM on December 17, 2010

My tax situation is far more complicated and I use Turbo Tax. I do download the IRS publications that cover the more complicated aspects of my taxes. You don't want to completely rely on the computer. I use the computer for the first cut and then double check everything with the IRS info, not necessarily the math but rather whether the appropriate deductions, credits etc. are being addressed. One missed check box in Turbo Tax and you could omit claiming a valuable tax credit, so if you know about the credit and you don't see it then you go hunt for where things went wrong. Your tax situation is not very complicated and you should be able to do it fine without the aid of a CPA. If you are not comfortable teaching yourself the finer points of taxation then you should hire someone.
posted by caddis at 12:25 PM on December 17, 2010

Seconding at least TALKING to an accountant this year. We had some complicated tax issues two years ago (contracting, multiple states, getting married, etc) and it really helped to deal with a professional. The next year I was able to do it on my own, but that initial trip was well worth the money!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used an accountant for the first time this year. I did my own tax first, and didn't submit it, then I called a place that offered a free estimate. The estimate they gave me was much better than my own calculations (saved me about $300) and their fee to submit was $140. So I used them, and will continue to do so. And my tax wasn't even complicated! (Income only from salary and savings interest, and deductions only for work-related expenses.)
posted by lollusc at 5:25 PM on December 17, 2010

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