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If all you have is W2s, some interest or dividends & a few itemized deductions I really think most people can do it themselves, especially as the retail software has gotten much better. Most of the big firms have juniors or seasonal temps input it into software anyway although they use better programs. I know because I got hired by a CPA firm when I had my business to proof & review those returns for issues might have missed or input errors. The only return I actually prepared for them that year was over a hundred pages long.-----it was a complex nightmare. Not that difficult just that changing one number would have cascading effects....yes, I used the software for most of it.
But if you have a more complicated return a good pro can be worth their weigh in gold. Sometimes the timing or some small detail will make all the difference so pre-planning can really pay off. Once a transaction has happened there's only so much any preparer can legally do. I once had a client who after paying me for my research & opinion decided he didn't want to wait another 20 days to finalize a contract because the price he was getting would decrease $5,000 if it didn't close before month end. His decision cost him an additional $36,000 in taxes because he ended up 11 days shy when it closed of the required one year & one day to make the transaction a long-term capital gain rather than a short-term one. That's why you should read the 30 day wash rule very carefully......trade date or settlement date could make a huge difference if you do it near year end or haven't held some of the stocks very long. You'll probably want to keep the losses short-term if you have options to offset more income.
Hope this helps.....
I have about 150 individual investments; individual stocks & bonds. Some are limited partnerships that pay distributions rather than dividends. Some are foreign companies. Some have spun off subsidiaries & issued stock, which changes the cost basis for the original stock bought. Plus I sold my house this year & want to squeeze every penny of capital improvements out of it. I used to do my own taxes until they got too complicated & it just wasn't worth it for me to waste my time or worry that maybe I'd overlooked something.
A professional can definitely save you money. For 3-1/2 years my elderly aunt lived with me, and she made me the executrix of her estate. Her estate was in excess of both the federal & state estate tax exclusions, not to mention inheritance tax. The estate attorney calculated that less tax would be paid overall, if I took the maximum allowable executor's fee & paid income tax on it, than if that same amount was taxed as part of the estate. How many laymen would think of that?!