Learning Center

04 JAN

Professional vs. Online Tax Returns What’s the Difference

Taxes are something most of us don’t want to think about any more than we have to. If it didn’t cost anything, we would all hand our details to a tax specialist and let them do the dirty work—especially if it’s someone we really trust.

Unfortunately, having your taxes done by professional does cost something. And in today’s economic climate, where saving a buck is high on the list of most households and businesses, filing your taxes online appears to be an attractive option. But is it really worth the hassle? Or does professional help with your taxes offer even greater benefits?

Obviously, not every situation is the same. If you are a single member household with a full time job and very few assets, the DIY approach is much more feasible. There simply aren’t that many variables to consider. But the more complicated your situation becomes, the more sense it makes to make use of an online tax program or delegate your taxes to a trained professional.

Which one should you choose? Even if April 15 is a long way off, it’s important for American taxpayers to understand the practical differences between hiring a pro and filing online.

Dynamic vs. fixed approach

If you’ve filed taxes online at any point in the last five or ten years, you’ve probably noticed that automated tax engines have become more sophisticated and easier to use. Paid accountants and IT specialists are constantly working to improve the systems and convince larger numbers of people that professional tax help is no longer necessary.

But when push comes to shove, online tax software will always represent a fixed and somewhat static approach to the tax filing process. No matter how many questions the software asks, there may always be details that slip through the cracks and prevent the tax filer from finding the very best solutions and results.

This is where a trained professional has a distinct advantage. US tax codes are constantly changing, as are the many variables that affect taxes for both households and businesses.

Surprising solutions

People are often surprised by the perfectly legal ways in which a professional accountant can improve tax filing, whether it’s maximizing business deductions or getting the biggest possible tax refund for households. This is because a professional pays individual attention, not only to the minute details of the tax return, but also to the bigger picture. There are almost always things that professionals notice and online algorithms do not.

Professionals also offer a distinct advantage of feedback, and the ability to have your questions answered by a real person. More and more online tax systems are beginning to offer chat and even phone support for their customers, but how much do these support staff really know about your business or household—especially when they are looking at hundreds of different accounts every hour?

The bottom line

Many people (especially those with very simple tax situations) find online filing to be an easy and convenient option. But for those who wish to maximize their financial advantages during tax season, while minimizing the amount of stress that tends to accompany this annual task, professional tax services are simply a better option.