Tax software packages like Turbo Tax help many people prepare their taxes every year. But how do you know if tax software is the right choice for you?

CPA Michelle Swenson says, “I think people who are kind of do-it-yourself, kind of hands-on, tech-savvy people, I think they really enjoy the challenge of trying to prepare their own taxes. And I think if your taxes are reasonably straightforward that’s not a problem.”

If you think you might like to use tax software to prepare your taxes this year, ask yourself a few questions. Do you like to use technology for other tasks, like selling possessions on eBay? Are you comfortable relying on tax software to correctly file your taxes? Do you have complicated income sources or deductions that you would enter into tax software?

Some people have a hard time using tax software because it doesn’t suit their needs. If you have lots of deductions, income from stocks, make political contributions, or have any other complications with your taxes, your paperwork might be too complicated for tax software. Because tax software is a computer program, it’s following computer commands. Swenson says, “it’s sort of a dialogue with a computer versus a dialogue with a human being.”

The tax software packages prompt the user with questions, but they might not necessarily ask all the right follow-up questions. So why would anyone use tax software? Swenson thinks that people just like using tax software technology, “It’s really powerful for people, and it’s empowering.”

Swenson won’t badmouth tax software or say it doesn’t work, but she feels that there’s no substitute for human expertise. If you think you might want to try tax software, you might want to consult an accountant for advice on what software would suit your needs and ask if there are any tricky areas in your taxes that you need to know about.

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Published: Jul 3, 2008