Money Talks News: Getting Help with Taxes

There are any number of ways to file a tax return: you can use software...go to a preparation service, or hire high-priced pros from a CPA to a tax lawyer.

Author and CPA, Tom Sawyer, says the IRS isn't particular.

"They would like you to prepare them properly and they would like you to not make errors, but they're unable right now to license and require certain levels of competency."

So what you should you do? Step one is to see if you qualify for free in-person preparation. If you made $52,000 or less last year, a VITA volunteer will do it free.

If you made more than that, you've only got two choices. Do your taxes yourself or pay a pro.

Whether you pay a pro or not, your return is going to be done with software anyway.

The only difference is who's doing the typing: you or a pro. So when do you use a professional? Only when that pro is worth it.

"The software I don't think understands the potential risks that certain deductions can bring or doesn't ask more probing questions of things that we'll ask."

But even if you do decide on a pro, ask a lot of questions first. Talk to several.

Make an appointment by phone or in person, and ask about their experience: particularly with situations like yours.

And wherever you go, make sure they're going to be around all year and not just seasonally. You're going to appreciate that if should you get an audit notice in August.

Bottom line? If your life and your finances are complicated, by all means, pay a pro. But if your situation is simple, use software. After all, that's what these guys are doing anyway.

Now what you need is some advice on how to pick the right pro.

And it's waiting for you right here at

Just do a search for "Tax Hacks 2014." For Money Talks News, I'm Stacy Johnson.