Who needs an accountant?


So…why did Barbara and I see our accountant this afternoon, when all we had to do was routine income tax preparation? Several friends and students have asked me why I don’t just do my own tax prep? After all, I’m a math teacher, so I would surely do it correctly with the aid of TurboTax, they say.

Well, perhaps. Yes, it does cost less to pay to file a return myself than to pay an accountant to do it for us. But there are reasons why we see her every year for this purpose:

  1. In general, I trust professionals. Amateurs make bad decisions. (Donald Trump, anyone? Ben Carson?) Professions have lots of education and training to get to where they are today. That’s why they’re professionals.
  2. In particular, an accountant knows what questions to ask…and what answers to give in borderline situations. And an accountant can give advice on matters like Roth IRA’s, social security, and retirement options.
  3. It’s not this straightforward every year. Sometimes we have Schedule C income, or questionable deductions, or deductions we weren’t even aware of. Those could save more than the difference between paying the accountant and buying the TurboTax software.
  4. Finally, time is money. Preparing one’s own taxes carefully and correctly is a very time-consuming endeavor. At this point I would rather have the time than save a couple of hundred dollars.


Categories: Life