Average taxpayer spends 15 hours preparing tax forms

- The time to file your taxes is now. The deadline is just a few weeks away.

Filing your taxes can be time-consuming, but is it worth your money to hire a paid preparer? 

Luke Richardson, of Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy, says it depends on your tax situation.

Richardson says the average taxpayer spends about 15 hours preparing their own taxes.  Conversely, the average cost to have them done by a professional is $210. 

You may want to do it yourself - with tax prep software if:

- Your return is straight-forward;

- Cost is important; filing software is pretty inexpensive and sometimes even free if you qualify for the IRS free file program.

- You want to understand your situation better - to plan for next year;

On the flip side, hire a pro when:

- Your return is complicated; things like investment income, rental properties, or being self-employed can change the way your taxes are done.

- You think prior years might have some errors and you want to fix;

- You like the convenience and peace of mind of having someone else do the work.

But remember, you're ultimately responsible for the return. So spend time reviewing it, even if it’s prepared by someone else.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has gone undercover several times in the past and found significant mistakes made by paid tax preparers that shortchanged the taxpayer.

Make sure you know what type of preparer you've picked.

“You've got your basic kind of chain establishments where you can walk in. They have training to prep returns. That's one end of the spectrum,” Richardson explained. “The other end, you have CPAs, enrolled agents, other credentialed preparers who tend to have a more holistic view of tax prep.”

No matter which you choose, the deadline is the same. Tax day is Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

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