Should You Pay Someone to Do Your Taxes?

Whether You Hire a Pro Depends on Price and Your Comfort Level

Person sitting at a desk, working with paperwork, tablet, and a calculator

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Deciding whether to pay someone to prepare your tax return depends a great deal on how confident you are about crunching numbers and your understanding of tax laws and rules. You could be fine forging ahead on your own if calculations are your thing, but you might want to pay someone to prepare your return otherwise. You have other options as well.

Key Takeaways

  • You can expect to pay anywhere from about $220 to $323 (if you itemize) for a professional to prepare your state and federal returns.
  • Using tax preparation software can save you from paying a professional top dollar or wading into the challenge of preparing your tax return on your own.
  • The IRS provides several free or nearly free preparation and filing options, but you must qualify for each program based on things like your income and your age.
  • Preparing your own tax return without any help can be a tricky option if you have no background in taxation and it might even result in an audit.

The Cost Factor 

One nice thing about preparing your tax return yourself is that it's free, but you might also consider choosing tax preparation software from a company such as H&R Block, Credit Karma, or TaxSlayer. These preparers offer online filing that ranges in price from free to more than $100. Their services usually include tax support and some advice as well.

Preparing your own return can take a lot of time, but it will depend on the complexity of your financial situation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that it takes an average non-business filer about 13 hours to prepare their tax return from start to finish.

Where To Start

Begin by downloading the relevant forms and instructions from the IRS if you decide to prepare your tax return in paper form. Use Form 1040 to prepare your 2022 return in 2023 unless you're age 65 or older. The IRS has revised Form 1040 a few times since 2018, so be sure to access the correct form for the current tax year. Tax preparation software will automatically take care of this for you.

Be sure to get a return from your state's tax department website as well if you're using tax preparation software that doesn't provide state returns. Not all do, at least not without charging an additional fee.


Tax filers aged 65 years or older have the option of filing Form 1040-SR.

Tax Preparation Software 

Your best option might be to use tax preparation software and applications. These programs are set up to ask you a series of questions and will input your answers into your tax return and make calculations for you.

Most programs tell you how contributing to an IRA, giving money to charity, earning more than you did the year before, or losing or gaining a dependent will change what you owe or how much you get back. You can see how entering these numbers into different parts of the software can make an impact on tax calculations and tax planning.

You have several options to choose from, including free and paid software. Some of the more well-known software providers include H&R Block and TaxAct. Additional charges may apply for state or more complex filings.

Free internet programs are also available through the IRS Free File Alliance, but this program is limited to individuals whose adjusted gross incomes were $73,000 or less in the 2022 tax year, and who can meet a few other requirements.

If You Hire a Professional 

Be sure to find a tax professional with a level of experience and specialization that's suited to your needs if you choose this option. Some accountants are general practitioners. Others specialize in situations such as helping Americans who live overseas or self-employed individuals in a variety of businesses. 

The two most common professional credentials for tax preparers are certified public accountant (CPA) and enrolled agent (EA). CPAs are trained in a wide range of accounting procedures, and some specialize in tax preparation. EAs are trained specifically in tax procedures and they can represent you before the IRS if necessary.

How Much Does a Professional Cost? 

Tax professionals charged an average of $220 for a Form 1040 with a state return and no itemized deductions in 2021, according to the most recent report made available from the National Society of Accountants. That number jumped to $323 for those who itemized their deductions.


You can expect prices to be higher in regions with higher costs of living or if your tax return is particularly complex.

You can also find free tax preparation services through local nonprofits if you qualify:

  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free tax preparation services to people who earned $60,000 or less in the 2022 tax year. You can also qualify if you're disabled or if you have limited proficiency in English.
  • Taxpayers who are age 60 or older can find free tax preparation services through Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). The AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide program operates most TCE sites.

These programs often set up space at local community centers, colleges, or libraries during the tax season. You can locate a program near you using this Get Free Tax Help Prep tool on the IRS website.

The Final Decision

Keep in mind that you'll still have to do a lot of the work yourself, even if you hire a professional.


Start gathering and organizing your 2022 tax documentation as soon as you can so you'll be prepared when it's time to file. You have until April 18 in 2023 to file your 2022 return because April 15 falls on a Saturday and April 17 is a holiday in Washington, D.C.

It's up to you to gather all your tax-related documents. The sooner you start, the more information you'll have at your fingertips to make the best decision.

You'll want to save time for reviewing your tax return for accuracy when it's completed, regardless of which route you take. A professional will certify accuracy and can help you down the road in a potential tax audit, but your tax return is only as good as the information you provide to them.

You'll also want to keep a copy of your tax return and related documents for at least three years in case the tax agencies have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I do my own taxes?

It depends on how comfortable you are with your understanding of tax law. The rules and laws can be a prohibitive labyrinth for those without some type of tax background, and a particularly bad mistake can result in an audit. Fortunately, you have a lot of other options. Tax prep software is relatively affordable and it's a relatively easy and efficient way to file your return.

I just started my own business. What should I do for taxes?

You may want to hire a tax professional to help you with your return if you just started a business in the past year. The tax implications of a business depend on the structure of your business, and a professional can pull the correct forms and complete them for you. A professional can also help you claim valuable deductions for your business.

How do I find free tax filing help near me?

You may be able to file your taxes for free using professional help under the IRS Free File Alliance if you meet the income threshold. You might also consider finding Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) partners near you if you qualify for such programs.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. IRS. "1040 (2022) Instructions."

  2. IRS. "About Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors."

  3. IRS. "File Your Federal Taxes Online for Free."

  4. IRS. "Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications."

  5. National Society of Accountants. "2020-2021 Income and Fees Survey."

  6. IRS. "Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers."

  7. IRS. "IRS Sets January 23 as Official Start to 2023 Tax Filing Season; More Help Available for Taxpayers This Year."

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