While some television commercials urge tax filers to file their returns online, using a free Web site or software that must be purchased, local tax preparers say often times, filing with a professional can yield a better outcome.
Local tax preparers are scrambling on their busiest days of the year, with Thursday's April 15 tax deadline looming. Several professionals working in Gloversville said they often see customers try to do their taxes with do-it-yourself software or online for free. Many return that same year or the next year, confused by the process.
Philip Becket, owner of Philip Becket CPA PC, said business owners often use a CPA to handle their returns because of the complexity of the paperwork involved. He said even people with less complicated returns often want a professional to do it because of the time saved.
The Leader-Herald/Kayleigh Karutis
Lynn Knowlton, Certified Public Accountant and Manager at West and Co. CPAs PC in Gloversville works at her desk Thursday.
"It's like if you want to do work on your car, you could go to the store and buy the tools and the parts and spend three days doing it, or you could take it to someone who does it all the time and have it done in an hour," he said.
Becket said business is booming. Changes in tax law add more layers of complexity to the return process, prompting many to ask a professional for help, he said.
Other CPAs and tax preparers agree. Paul E. Reid of Reid's Income Tax said many times, an individual trying to do their own taxes online or with software they purchased either find it very confusing or miss something that could make a big difference.
"There's always a certain number of people who always think they can do it themselves," he said. "Personally, I find TurboTax [software] to be confusing. This is what we do for a living, so we are familiar with things that you won't find in the software."
Lynn Knowlton, a CPA at West and Co. CPAs LC in Gloversville agreed with Reid. She said West and Co.'s client base is growing as tax complexities increase. She said with new deductions, as well as a new homebuyers' credit, many individuals trying to prepare their own returns might miss something huge.
Paul Nigro, manager of Liberty Tax Service, said free online forms or software programs like TurboTax can pull customers away from professional tax preparers. Many times, though, individuals who try to prepare their own statements end up coming in to speak with a professional anyway.
"We see it all the time. I don't want to try and discourage people from trying it themselves, but if you have concerns, you should come in and talk to someone," he said. "I've had people prepare it themselves and then they come in and we come up with something significantly better."
That goes especially for individuals with multiple properties, deductions, or who might qualify for any number of federal or state credits.
"It might work fine on simpler returns, but even people with basic ones still come in because they don't want to deal with it or don't feel comfortable doing it themselves," he said.
Diane Wood, a franchisee at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, said she has seen many people try tax-filing software. They get frustrated by it and end up coming in, she said.
"They've done it, but they've made errors and have to have it amended," she said. "In essence they aren't saving themselves anything when you factor in the time it takes to do it yourself compared to going to a tax preparer. There are a lot of good credits out there that people are missing."
Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.