Today, there are lots of online programs you can use to file your taxes. And some taxpayers also qualify for free filing with these programs. With so many DIY options that cost very little or nothing, hiring an accountant may not seem necessary.
But in some circumstances, getting help from a professional could really pay off. In fact, if your tax situation is complicated or you're not sure how to maximize your savings, you could end up costing yourself a fortune by not paying a certified public accountant (CPA).
To help you decide if you need a tax professional to assist with your return or not, consider whether any of these three situations sound like they apply to you.
1. You started a business
Becoming an entrepreneur changes your tax situation dramatically. You'll potentially be eligible for new deductions you weren't able to claim before, including deductions for business expenses as well as for up to 20% of qualified business income.
Depending on the way your business is organized and whether you have employees, you may also have new obligations. If you formed a corporation or partnership, for example, your new business entity may be required to submit some forms to the IRS that are separate from your personal tax return.
A CPA can help ensure your business complies with IRS requirements and can also assist you in taking full advantage of new tax breaks you've become eligible for.
2. You've had major life changes that could affect your tax situation
Getting married or divorced, adopting or giving birth to a child, or retiring can all have a huge impact on your taxes. You may need to choose a different filing status or may become eligible for new tax savings such as the child tax credit.
While online tax filing programs help you figure out the impact of these life changes, they aren't always a substitute for the expertise of a professional. And when your tax return is going to look dramatically different, advice from a CPA could help you avoid mistakes and maximize savings both this year and in the future.
3. You have nontraditional investments such as cryptocurrencies
Tax laws surrounding cryptocurrencies have been evolving in recent years, but the bottom line is that you have an obligation to properly report any gains to the IRS. If you fail to pay any taxes owed because of your crypto investments, you could find yourself facing penalties.
Online tax software programs haven't all caught up to the cryptocurrency rules. You don't want to run afoul of them, so finding a CPA with knowledge in this area could be essential.
Don't hesitate to get tax help when you need it
You don't want to be pennywise and pound foolish when it comes to doing your taxes, especially if you risk an audit and owing tax penalties.
If you aren't sure you're able to handle your filing on your own or if your tax situation is complicated by life changes, a new business, or unusual investments, it's a good idea to get professional advice. If your accountant helps you maximize your savings or avoid trouble with the IRS, that will be well worth the fee you paid.