Last year (2014) was the last straw! I went to the same tax preparation company that I’d gone to for the last ten years and ended up paying $608 to have my return prepared and filed!
And this for a relatively simple return!
To start at the beginning, when I used this preparer, a very well-known chain, I paid maybe $250 and was also sent a coupon that took $20 off my bill. But each year, the price kept going up! Last year (2014) it was $608, a steep rise from the year before, when I paid roughly $450! And, to top this off, the preparer stopped sending their discount coupons.
Well, I asked why my return, (which was fairly simple with some self-employment income, but certainly nothing like what a decent sized business would generate),had cost so much to prepare.
I was told that it was due to my number of w2’s and the division of my self-employment income generating more forms, each of which added another $100 to the cost! And I think I only had 3 w2’s and one 1099!
So, did they protect me and go to bat for me with any problems with the IRS? Well, yes, on two occasions. But, it was for mistakes they made! Not for anything I forgot to include or miscalculations I made!
So, this year, (2015) I decided enough was enough! I found a service, partly supported and endorsed by the AARP, which does tax returns free of charge. They also provide resources that can help you if you are audited. And they do a good job!
Luckily, in most of my past years, I had gotten refunds that were enough to cover the cost of preparation. However, I guess that had I gone to a tax preparation business, I may have paid $700 or more this time! With the $200 refund I’m getting this year, I would have ended up $500 in the hole, if not more!
Is there a down side or catch to using this free service? Sure. There are requirements, such as income levels. If too high, then you’re not eligible, although, the threshold is fairly high. Also, there are some things that they cannot do regarding tax returns, mostly things that are in much more complex returns, unless you’re willing to forgo the deductions, but, in many cases, the taxpayer will still save more by not going to a standard preparer.
In my case, the actual organization doing the free tax returns is called “Cash Oregon”, and is endorsed by the AARP. Oh, and by the way, there are no age restrictions, even though the AARP is involved.
And, depending on your area and how the organization you find works in your area, you may have to make an appointment well in advance, or, if they only do walk-in service, you may have to get up very early in the morning, arrive very early, and wait half the day or more. But, it’s well worth it! And unless you have the kind of return that is very complex and has a possibly greater chance of being audited, you should be just fine using a free service.
Just be sure to make sure that it is supported or endorsed by a reputable organization such as the AARP.
Oh, and what about the possible suggestion that I simply find another provider, one of the other well-known tax preparation companies? Well, while I was waiting, another guy came in and told the clerk he was trying Cash Oregon’s service because he was tired of paying exorbitant costs to have his taxes prepared by one of those other well-known companies!
So, if you’re seeing your tax refunds getting chewed to pieces by your tax preparer’s high costs, or even worse, having to pay that high cost on top of any taxes you owe try looking for a free service!
And support the FAIR TAX! (See my post, FAIR TAX! IT’S WAY PAST TIME!)
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