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Did you start your tax return with TurboTax, get a refund result, then move to H&R Block online to see if you could get an even bigger refund? Maybe you went to three different tax offices to see which one would give you the best refund result? Did you pay the upgrade fee so that TurboTax or H&R Block could find you those “hidden” tax credits or magical deductions?

Let me begin by saying, that I do not hate on tax preparers, after all, I am a tax professional. I am merely pointing out how technology has simplified personal taxes to the point that most software used by tax professionals are a step-by-step interview, similar to TurboTax or H&R Block.

Remember, the IRS does not require tax preparers to obtain any special education. Take me for example… all I had to do was go online to get a PTIN (no training required), and I called myself a tax preparer. Although training is not required, I did go through extensive training, by personal choice, to ensure I could support my clients appropriately. There are also those black market tax “pros” who go to Walmart, buy 30 copies of TurboTax and illegally prepare taxes for their clients, charging them $200.00 per return, and keeping a chunk of their client’s refund for their self.

Let me tell you how I, and most tax preparers, file your taxes:

First, I enter your information into a system; information like your name, social security number, date of birth, and your family’s information (if you are married or have kids). Entering this information and reviewing the accuracy of it takes me about two minutes if you are married with kids, less than a minute if you are single, and less than 30 seconds, if you are a recurring customer, as most software applications will allow me to carry your information over from one year to the other with a simple click.

Second, I determine your filing status based on some simple questions. Your filing status will either be single, single with dependents, married filing jointly or married filing separately (least used). The filing status will determine your standard deduction amount. I will only go through the process of asking you itemization questions if you think your amount of IRS qualified deductions is more than your standard deduction. IOOGO Tax does the same thing. We won’t waste your time with question after question if you already know that as married filing jointly, you do not have more than $24,000 in IRS qualified deductions. 

Third, I enter your income information, like your W-2, 1099, cash income or any other form that you received. By the way, the IRS already has this info. Remember, if you did not pay any taxes or enough taxes during the year, and you do not have dependents to generate credits for you, don’t expect a refund.

Fourth, I apply adjustments to your income, if you have any. Adjustments are small amounts of “deductions” that reduce your income and taxes owed. They are not applicable to most people, especially since the new law removed some adjustment categories.

Fifth, we click yes or no to some simple, but essential, questions about your credits like Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, Dependent Care Expenses, Educations credits, to name the more important ones. I also did my due diligence to ensure there wasn’t a magical refund that was going to put me in jail next to you.

During each step, the software is crunching the information I enter and applying the current IRS law. By the time I finish with your credits, I already know your refund amount and am ready to run the software alerts. Yes, the software checks the math, law, logic and other important aspects, but no software will determine if you forgot a form and neither will a tax preparer, as they can only work with the information you provide.

It’s that simple! No tricks! No magic! Just math.

Now there are some of us tax professionals who can print your tax return, explain it to you line by line and tell you exactly where the numbers came from – that’s what I call magic!

But there are a lot of so-called tax “pros” who cannot even explain how simple credits work. The worst part is the IRS could hold you, the taxpayer, accountable if your preparer makes a mistake or commits fraud on your tax return.

Filing your taxes is simple. There is no magic, and there are no tricks. File your own taxes. If we can follow the software steps, so can you!

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