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U.S. Tax System

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In certain cases, you may want professional help for your tax return. You are well-advised to get professional help if you have:

  • A high income
  • Large real estate investments
  • Numerous and complicated investments
  • A major life change
  • A new home
  • A new job that requires a lot of travel

If your financial life is simple and straightforward, you probably don't need to pay someone to prepare your taxes.

But the more complex your tax return, the more likely it is that a skilled tax advisor will help you find savings that will easily pay for his or her fee.

Those with less complicated tax returns may choose to get help for the convenience, to save time, or just because they don't want to deal with tax forms.

To help you decide what kind of help best suits your needs, here is a summary of your options and the situations in which they are most helpful.

Tax Preparation Houses

Tax preparation houses are the factories of professional tax help. They are best suited for variations on a one-size-fits-all solution for people with simple to moderately complicated returns.

Their strengths are price and convenience. Often your return can be completed on the spot for a low price (as low as $100). But tax houses also offer the lowest service; therefore, don't expect much advice on how to reduce your taxes or other help in approaching your tax bill.

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs)

Certified Public Accountants who specialize in taxes can be the best advisors for filing complicated returns and finding ways to reduce your taxes. CPAs are required to pass extensive exams on financial matters and must continue their education to stay abreast of current changes to the tax code.

This kind of help comes at a price: the services of a competent tax accountant will easily cost $700 or more, depending on how much time your return requires and the reputation of the firm.

You can minimize your cost by keeping your tax records well-organized and well-documented.

To find a CPA in your area that specializes in taxes, go to CPAlink.

Enrolled Agents (EA)

Enrolled agents (EAs) are former IRS employees, or individuals who have passed tax exams and an IRS background check and are licensed by the federal government. They can be less expensive than CPAs and offer you more services/help than Tax Preparation Centers. EAs can prepare taxes, advise you on tax-related decisions, help you in the event that you?e audited, and even represent you before the IRS. To find an enrolled agent in your area, go to

Tax Attorneys

Tax attorneys can help with any legal matters affecting your taxes, suggest legal structures (such as setting up trusts) that help minimize your tax burden. You should talk to a tax attorney for advice on specific tax matters related to a marriage, divorce, or estate planning.

 U.S. Tax System

 Basic Tax Planning


 Preparing Taxes


 Professional Tax Help


 Avoiding Audits


Questions to ask a paid tax preparer:



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