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I generally do my tax returns using Turbo-tax. It is generally pretty straight forward, single salaried employee filing returns.

In the last tax year, I got married and bought a house. It makes me wonder whether I should stick with s/w or hire a tax consultant since there could be some tax gains to me made because of the house/marriage situation. We are planning to file as 'married filing separately', as we both have similar incomes.

What would make the most sense, to stick with the s/w or hire a consultant to get the best returns?

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    I don't think that Marriage and a House are complex enough to warrant a tax professional. Those are extremely common issues that all the major tax software programs can handle quite nicely. – abelenky Mar 28 '17 at 22:17
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    The only reason you might want to sit with a tax consultant is to assess your current financial situation to seek possible tax efficiencies. – quid Mar 28 '17 at 23:24
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    @quid - I'd agree. With warning that he find the tax guy who understand that's what he wants. There are many people who do taxes, and do a fine job of it, but offering advice is not part of their routine. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 28 '17 at 23:39
  • @JoeTaxpayer and I should also mention that I mean really for efficiencies in 2017 and beyond, planning for the future not maximizing the 2016 filing. – quid Mar 29 '17 at 0:05
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    As already stated, not that difficult to do yourself, the "interview" questions are pretty straightforward, as well as the hints and tips along the way, and all else fails, they have tax consultants you can chat with if you get stuck, so generally if you are good at paying attention to details and keep good records, you will be fine. For first time, I might recommend taking someone like HRB to take a second look to make sure, that way you can build confidence in your own ability. Good luck and congrats by the way. – GµårÐïåñ Mar 29 '17 at 1:08
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I will give a modified version of JoeTaxpayer's advice.

First, congratulations on your marriage and house purchase.

Next, do not use the Married Filing Separately (MFS) option unless you absolutely have to use it for very good reasons; and "our incomes are similar" is not a good reason.. The tax laws and tax rate schedules are written in a way that encourages married couples to file joint tax returns (MFJ) rather than separate tax returns, except of course for those who love to support the government by paying as much tax as possible. TurboTax supports both the MFS and MFJ options but do not use the MFS option just because it is there and you are familiar with filing tax returns as a single person: MFS is not the same as two persons filing Single tax returns. Did you know, for example, that as a single person, you are not entitled to contribute to a Roth IRA if your (Modified Adjusted Gross) Income exceeds $131K, but as a Married Filing Separately person, that threshold drops to $10K? Yes, $10K, that's not a typo. On the other hand, if you have Married Filing Jointly status, then the threshold is $193K, not quite double of $134K but still reasonable.

Finally, since you bought a house in 2016, you might well be able to file Schedule A and take advantage of Itemized Deductions which (depending on when you bought your house) could be larger than the standard deduction that you most likely were using prior to 2016. Mortgage interest, property tax, state and local income tax (or state and local sales taxes), and charitable donations are all deductions. Once again, note that MFS people are constrained: if one itemizes deductions, then so must the other itemize deductions even if the other has very little to deduct and would have been better off opting for the standard deduction. If you wisely do choose to file MFJ, explore the itemized deductions by following TurboTax's "Guide me through everything" option instead of just using "I will work on my own" and doing things just like you remember doing last year.

In summary, there is no need to hire a tax consultant, and besides finding one at this late date might be a tad difficult: most accountants, tax consultants etc are already booked up solid with their continuing clients and don't have time to take on a new one. Just use Turbotax and take the time to go through their interview process to make sure that you are taking advantage of all that your new status entitles you to. And, for heaven's sake don't file MFS unless you absolutely have to (e.g., your wife, who has not read this answer, or has read it but disbelieves it as just another piece of fake news, and insists on filing a MFS return). MFS is generally used by married people on the cusp of divorce, or who have reason to distrust one another's financial honesty, or have immigration issues (one spouse is a nonimmigrant and not entitled to file a MFJ return or chooses not to because that would mean his/her (large) worldwide income becomes subject to US tax). It is to be hoped at least the first two reasons don't apply to you....

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  • Thank you for the detailed answer. I especially liked your take on MFS. – edocetirwi Mar 29 '17 at 14:25
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There's no reason to file separately. And your situation is pretty simple. You can use the most basic level of tax software.

In fact, given that we are less than 3 weeks to tax day, any tax guy worth going to will not have the time to take you on as a client.

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  • I like the second paragraph and would add that you should eventually seek a good tax person to add as part of your financial services team. – Pete B. Mar 29 '17 at 12:05

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