I am an American taxpayer. Last year I unsuccessfully sought tax advice and I wasn't sure what I was doing wrong.

My situation is a bit unusual. I prepare my own returns, by hand, and don't use software or have an existing relationship with an accountant. Last year I found myself fretting over my return, reading huge amounts of IRS fine print, and worrying about where I was getting everything precisely correct.

I contacted several tax accountants, and asked if I could hire them for a consultation. I had in mind that I would bring a draft of my returns, ask them to look over it, and ask a variety of questions about my returns and about tax law. None of these accountants wanted to take me as a client. From what I can tell, this is not how tax accountants typically work; instead, apparently they prefer to take responsibility for their clients' tax returns from start to finish.

What would be a good way for me to seek out this sort of advice?

  • Are you opposed in principle to using software and/or having a CPA prepare your return? Most software packages give you the option to consult remotely with a CPA or other tax expert. You'd likely have to enter at least the relevant bits of information into the software to make that consultation worthwhile and you might have to reverse engineer what the software did to reproduce it manually if you wanted to file the actual return manually... Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 13:44
  • Or another way to think about it... the cost to consult with them is the same as the cost to actually have them do the return. And in particular, if you want or need advice about your specific situation, said consultant is going to have to effectively complete a return for you anyway to give you advice on your return. So... might as well have them do it. Even better, most places when they do your returns, will also help with audits and disagreements with the IRS and state tax agencies -- if your return is that complex, could be money well worth spending. Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 14:30
  • @JustinCave Not especially, no. How does that work, though? I was hoping to seek out someone with a good reputation, someone whose reviews I can find and read (and I'm willing to pay for this). Thanks.
    – academic
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 18:58
  • @R.Hamilton I think my return isn't that complex; I'm just anal retentive. :) It seems counter-intuitive to me that explaining everything about my income to a third party would be simpler than filling out a return myself... but I confess that I haven't tried it.
    – academic
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 19:01
  • Not an answer to your question, but I would advise you to just relax. You seem detail oriented, and tax agencies are probably not going to fine you for honest mistakes. Plus, for a sufficiently complex return, I consider the tax code like traffic laws, where if a cop follows you for long enough, they will find something you did wrong. So just do your best, ask specific questions on here and other places, and you'll almost certainly be fine.
    – Craig W
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


The CPA or tax consultant is worried that they will give you the wrong advice if they cant see everything related to your tax situation.

One advantage of using software is that it eliminates the simple math mistakes. They also have the ability to pull data directly from last years form if you used any of the software packages, even from a competitors. They can also pull data directly from some W-2 for\ms, and from 1099's from banks or investment companies.

The software I use allows you either to use an interview mode, or they will let you skip around and answer only the parts you think apply to you. There is also an option to consult with a CPA if you get stuck.

I found a long time ago that even with a relatively simple tax situation the peace of mind from not having to do all the math by hand, or having to read the most complex set of steps for a word problem was worth the money.

The software also allows you to see how your numbers will look on the tax form, and allow you to trace the source of any number.

  • This is good information but it doesn't really answer the question (except the note about a CPA buried in the middle). It may be that the question isn't a useful one, but still. . .
    – BrenBarn
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 5:55

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