With the Apr. 17 tax-day deadline looming, you might be wondering: How long does it take an accountant to do your taxes vs. doing them yourself? If you're not a big fan of math, don't have hours to spend preparing your own taxes, and you're willing shell out more cash, employing an accountant to do your taxes might sound enticing. Tax professionals can get your taxes done pretty quickly if you have all of your documents in order. On the other hand, you could spend the better part of the weekend doing your own taxes. "The IRS estimates that you'll need 16 hours to complete a Form 1040. That's the individual return that, according to the IRS, 69 percent of us use," Kay Bell reported for USA TODAY.
"The hours to complete this longest of the three options take into account gathering records, tax planning, and filling out and submitting the return." Whoa, that's a long freakin' time. Before you freak out, remember that this is just the average time it takes; your taxes might take you less time to complete. It generally takes me between four-to-six hours using TurboTax depending on how organized I am and how many places I have worked in a given year. I used an accountant once, and for me the price wasn't worth the convenience because I literally need every penny of that refund to pay my giant pile of bills.
"If you use a tax preparer, you'll also have to commit some time to gathering tax statements and other material," Bell noted. "But once you deliver the necessary documents, you'll have more time for other tasks." On Nerd Wallet's "Ask An Advisor," accountants noted that the length of time it takes them to prepare your taxes depends on how organized your paperwork is, how complex your taxes are, and how early you send your accountant said forms. However, the good news is that even if you're accountant doesn't get to your taxes ASAP, they will get them done before the April 17 deadline, and the burden is effectively off of your plate.
If you're filing a simple 1040EZ, prices at H&R Block start at $56 for federal and $48 for state, according to H&R Block's website. When you make an appointment they will go over everything with you and do your taxes right then and there. You can also hire a virtual tax pro to do your taxes through H&R Block. Basically, you upload your forms and they do the rest. If you're a freelancer with eleventy-million 1099s, or if you run your own business, you're probably going to want to hire an accountant to make sure everything is done correctly and you're getting all of the deductions you're entitled to.
"While comprehensive tax software can handle these more complex tax situations, it cannot talk with you about your plans that could affect your taxes," Bell reported for USA TODAY. "A tax professional, however, can outline what might happen if you want to donate rather than sell the stock your Uncle Henry left to you. A tax adviser can offer insight into tax law changes that might affect you and whether you should make certain moves now or wait." On the personal finance forum Bogleheads, some people who filed their own taxes using online tax software said it takes them an average of four hours or less to do their own taxes while others said it takes them more than 10 hours.
Again, this all depends on how many forms you have to file, how complicated your taxes are, and how much tax knowledge you have. If you have a 1040EZ, it's super simple to prepare and file it yourself. However, if you have a lot of complicated forms, you don't have any time to spare, or the thought of dealing with your taxes induces overwhelming anxiety, getting a pro to do them might be a better option for you. "For the average U.S. citizen, filling out tax returns can be, well, taxing, both emotionally and mentally," Andrew Hollandbeck explained on Dummies.com. "If someone else is doing your taxes for you, you can just relax and concentrate on what you’ll spend your tax refund on." In the end it all boils down to what you're comfortable with. Trust your gut — it's hardly ever wrong.