More Americans D.I.Y. Their Taxes

Anna Williams
Posted

This tax season, more Americans seem to be going it alone.

In fact, according to the latest IRS data, over 27 million Americans filed their own taxes as of March 7—an almost 6% increase from the same period last year. And here’s another indicator of independence: Sales of TurboTax, the tax-preparation software popular with D.I.Y.-ers, were up 7% in February.

On the flip side, the number of taxpayers who used a professional is, naturally, on the decline. About 34.8 million sought out assistance this year, which represents a decrease of over 2%.

If you’re a born D.I.Y.-er who likes to tackle everything from holiday cards to home repairs, then going it alone on your tax return may not seem so daunting. But that’s not the mindset of most of us non-crafty individuals. Admit it: You probably view taxes as a complicated, time-sucking affair. So why are Americans more willing than ever to suddenly taking matters into their own hands?

For one, preparing your own taxes in 2014 may be a much smoother process than it has been in the past. It no longer entails shuffling through an assortment of forms at the local library, and spending your entire Saturday laboring over complicated instructions and queries. Technology has brought tax planning to the people.

Easy-to-use software programs like TurboTax or TaxACT have made D.I.Y. all the more convenient—and affordable, especially as many programs let you file taxes for free if you fall under a certain income threshold. Many providers will also auto-fill some fields for you based on last year’s return, tend to cut out the abstruse IRS-speak, and can often help you account for any deductions and credits that you might qualify for.

For Americans on a tight budget, filing taxes on your own can also mean saving a good chunk of change on accountant fees, given that the average bill for a tax professional tallies up to about $261.

Still, some experts propose a unique theory for the uptick in D.I.Y.-ers this year: the Polar Vortex. ”It’s been an incredibly bad winter,” Jeff Porter, a CPA with Porter & Associates, told USA Today. “If you’re sitting at home because you’re stuck in, you can do your tax return.”

Even if you agree that doing your taxes would be a good way to fight cabin fever, make sure that forgoing professional help is really the right approach for you. Take this easy quiz to find out whether you’d benefit from hiring an accountant this year—or whether you have the time and patience to D.I.Y. your returns.