It’s April 15th at midnight…Do you know where your taxes are?

The date is not upon us yet, but it will be sooner than many like.  Every year many filers wait until the last moment to do their taxes and then, thinking they are too hard, take them to a tax preparer.  This just is not the best way to do it.

I’m an accountant by trade and many people assume I know a lot about taxes.  I don’t.  Like other disciplines, many accountants specialize in some area.  My expertise is job costing and more specifically for the construction industry.  I understand taxes as they relate to these areas, but only have a working knowledge with regards to personal taxes.  The personal tax code is a huge book and it changes all the time.  In fact, my filing this year was delayed two weeks in order for the federal government to get its act together.  So if an accountant doest not know that much about taxes, what hope is there for people who care nothing for numbers and accounting?

You could take them to a CPA specializing in tax, but they cost a lot and most people just don’t need that level of expert.  You could take them to a preparer like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt, but while they cost less than a CPA, they are still expensive if you go visit them.  They have also started offering loans on your return so you can walk out that day with the money, but in the end you will probably drop about $100 for the privilege.  Another little know secret is that preparer is not necessarily an accountant or even well trained in taxes.  I’m sure the noted companies make every effort to hire qualified people, but ti it not required.  Another is that no matter who prepares your taxes, you have to sign them.  You are responsible for whatever is on there and if you get audited, the preparer cannot go with you.

So, I recommend doing your own taxes.  Tax software has come a long way over the years.  There are a lot to choose from including online services from H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt.  Looking at their sites, it will cost you about $30 for decent service.  Quicken is another well known name and connects to many personal finance software.  Assuming you use MS Money or to track your money, this may work to help ease your tax filing.  My personal favorite is  It is free to start, but the $9.95 make sure you can get to your previous years data and prefill of many of the forms.  It runs you through a lot of questions, has tons of help and alerts at the end to make sure you did not miss something.  You also get to e-file, which is now preferred by the IRS.  I have used if for a few years and never had a complaint.

So get your forms and receipts in order, take an hour and get your taxes done.

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