Its my first time filing taxes on my own and I need to decide between using some tax software like TurboTax or hiring an accountant.
What are some factors I should consider when making this decision?
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Largely it comes down to the complexity of your return (likely relatively simple if it's your first time filing) and your comfort level with using software. More complex returns would include filing business claims, handling stocks and investments, special return forms, etc.
One benefit to most of the software options out there such as TurboTax, HR Block, and Tax Slayer, are that they are free to use and you only pay when you're ready to file. You could give them a shot to see how easy/difficult they are and if you feel overwhelmed, then contact a CPA (whose time won't be free). Also remember that those HR Block seasonal places that open up are not CPA's, but are temps hired and trained to use the software that you would find online. You didn't indicate they were an option, but I like to point that out to those who might not know otherwise.
My opinion would be to use one of the online options because of cost and their ease of use. They also allow you to take your time and save your progress, so you can start using it and go ask questions/do research on your own time.
Hiring a CPA comes into play if you're doing something that requires judgement or planning, such as valuation of internal shares in a partnership, valuation of assets in an asset swap, or distribution of the proceeds of a liquidation. That said, I would strongly suggest hiring someone who is also a Tax Attorney over a plain old CPA. In the event you do need representation to clarify positions or assertions, you're probably going to need to hire one anyway. Qualified representation is much cheaper to hire up front than after the fact.
If all you need is help filing compliance paperwork (returns), software should be more than adequate.
I'm glad keshlam and Bobby mentioned there are free tools, both from the IRS and private software companies. Also search for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) in your area for individual help with your return.
A walk-in tax clinic strength is tax preparation. CPAs and EAs provide a higher level of service. For example, they compile and review your prior year's return and your current year, although that is not relevant to your current situation. EAs and CPAs are allowed to represent you before the IRS. They can directly meet or contact the IRS and navigate audits and other requests on your behalf. Outside of tax season, an accountant can help you with tax planning and other taxable events.
Some people do not hire a CPA or EA until they need representation. Establishing a relationship and familiarity with an accountant now can save time and money if you do anticipate you will need representation later. Part of what makes the tax code complicated is it can use very specific definitions of a common word. Furthermore, the specific definition of a phrase or word can change between publications. Also, the tax code uses all-encompassing definitions and provide detailed and lengthy lists that are not exhaustive; you may not find your situation listed or described in the tax code, yet you are responsible for reporting your taxable events. The best software cannot navigate you through your tax situation like an accountant.
Lastly, some of the smartest people I have met are accountants and to get the most out of meeting with them you should be as familiar as possible with your position. The more familiar you are with accounting, the more advanced knowledge they can share with you.
In short, you will probably need an accountant when: You need to explain yourself before the IRS (representation), you are encountering varying definitions in the tax code that have an impact on your return, or you have important economic activities that you are unsure of appropriate tax treatment.