Who to go to for help with taxes and how much does it cost?

Hi all,

We've never asked a tax preparer for help before (express1040 online helped us just fine) but my husband started learning about stocks during the pandemic and got a few that are overseas and it looks like that makes taxes complicated.  We tried to find out how much it would cost to go to HR Block but they wouldn't tell us.  We are really not sure what we are choosing between if we do it ourselves or go to them, we aren't used to asking for a service where they won't give us even a ballpark number for cost, either.

So we are wondering how cost for tax preparation is calculated, and what sort of numbers we should expect.  I'm embarrassed to even guess numbers here.

And if it matters (if one isn't complicated) who one goes to, what changes if you go somewhere more personal vs. just HR Block in downtown Berkeley, for instance.  And if it is complicated, what one worries about.

Advice welcome if anyone has patience and time to explain! 


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Assuming your husband purchased stocks through a US brokerage, you should be just fine continuing to prepare your taxes on your own (use TurboTax or HR Block software that is released each year, or you can keep using express1040 online). Any normal brokerage will send him a 1099-B before tax season and he can just plug the numbers in to Schedule D that you file with the Form 1040. I realize this doesn't answer your question about finding a tax preparer, but hopefully it means you can keep preparing your own returns!

I can't answer your question about breakdown of costs for tax preparation, but for 2021 and 2020 we used Credit Karma/ Cash App's free online tax preparation software. It is truly free, the only drawback is it does not have as many bells and whistles as Turbo tax. Worked well for us this year and last year, and the price can't be beat :)

We have gone thru years of fairly simple taxes and years of very complicated taxes.  After one year when I did our taxes and felt that I knew what I was doing, I discovered the following year that hiring an accountant would have saved us a lot of money. They know how to maximize on tax breaks that are not intuitively obvious to non-CPAs.

Our CPA (who I think is maxed out and not taking new clients) charges a flat rate for tax returns, about $875. We have found that it is worth it!

We have never done a lot of stock trades (other than a mutual fund with a single 1099), so this may not be pertinent, but TurboTax Home and Business is almost as good as hiring an accountant for common situations such as mixed W-2 and 1099 income, with self-employed business expenses, college tuition, etc.

Now that we are dealing with carried-forward fraud loss credits from my late MIL's estate, federal credits for the vacation cabin that burned down, and other weird and potentially complicated tax situations, i cannot imagine ever being able to print out the IRS forms and doing them by hand again.

Three things about hiring CPAs:  they tend to be people of analytical temperament. Such people tend to be conflict-averse. if they don't want to deal with you, they tend to just ghost you and not return messages, rather than sending an email that says "I don't want to work with you, go away". This can be frustrating. 

Another issue is that they work on an annual schedule. They get super busy before the April 15 and October 15 filing deadlines, and they take vacation during the summer and winter holidays. if you identify a CPA you would like to hire, figure out when the sweet spot is in their schedule and minimize the amount of time they need to devote to you in order to get them to file your tax return. Finally, we have had good luck retaining an excellent CPA by being super-organized and delivering all the data in one pdf file. But check to see if that is what your CPA wants.