Retail Tax Franchises or Online Tax Software?

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For tax preparation and filing, there are so many options to choose from now that sometimes you just don’t know where to begin. Once upon a time, H&R Block and the other retail franchises dominated the tax prep market. But with the wide acceptance of the internet and online tax software, more people are making the choice to prepare and file their returns themselves. Add to these options the free online tools available through the IRS website and you truly have a boatload of choices for filing your taxes. But, how do you choose the right choice? Glad you asked.

Retail Tax Franchises

We as humans are creatures of habit and once we find a routine we like, then it’s pretty hard to convince us to do anything else. Kind of like your favorite fast food place. Retail tax franchises like H&R Block, Liberty Tax, and Jackson Hewitt all enjoy committed and long-term tax clients. For those taxpayers with simple returns (usually people with one or at the most two jobs), this option is the best for several reasons. Speed and pricing are the primary reasons people continue to use this option. Often the tax preparers that provide prep and filing services are more than qualified to handle the various nuisances of individual taxpayers with one to two jobs, a house, and a child or two. Also, you can’t overlook the familiarity and low risk hassle with these franchises that people have come to expect and rather enjoy. From year to year, there are no big changes in terms of preparer turnover or pricing adjustments.

Online Tax Software

The rise in people using online tax software has exploded in recent years. For some, the aspect of going to a retail tax franchise has either lost its appeal or the tax return has become more complex due to more income, different types of income, or dealing in different types of property (personal, investment, and business). Even the IRS has encouraged those with simple returns to utilize free online software tools. Like the retail tax franchises, you can expect some cost savings depending on the type of return being prepared and filed. Also, this option gives you control and confidence in preparing your own return. Even though these online tax software packages provide a useful user experience through the use of online help options and even having available tax experts to help with hard to understand tax code sections, unless you have a firm grasp of the tax code, you shouldn’t rely totally on what the software recommends. This is where having a knowledgeable and competent tax consultant comes in handy.

Unlike these two options, a tax consultant that provides tax prep, filing, and consulting services specializes in understanding the tax code in-depth along with being available all year. Similar to having an insurance agent to call when you have a car accident or home burglary or even a personal banker when you have either a need for a home or car loan, a tax consultant is a trusted advisor that helps to provide peace of mind for you in areas of personal or business tax at a reasonable and affordable price.

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