Using Online Tax Services vs CPA
When financial needs arise or tax season’s on the horizon it’s common to seek out help from a finance pro. If you’re like most… you might have waited up until the 11th hour to get your ducks in a row before the looming tax deadline. Like many who’ve found themselves in a filing pinch, you may have considered using online tax services vs. CPA assistance.
Are Online Tax Services or a CPA Right For You?
If you’re curious what the benefits or drawbacks may be, it’s important to first understand what an account or a CPA offers. Accountants typically provide both business and tax advice and help their clients get a birds’ eye view of their financial outlook. Accountant responsibilities may also include some elements of bookkeeping along with business advice and planning, tax advice and filing, cash flow management, report creation, and business analytics.
What is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)?
A CPA, or certified public accountant, is an accountant who has successfully passed several certification exam (four in fact). This is no easy feat, and for this reason CPAs are often considered more experienced and trustworthy. CPAs can do everything a non-certified accountant can do but they also may help audit reports and, if needed, they can act as legal representation on behalf of your business for the IRS.
Just keep in mind, all CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs. If still in doubt about how to choose an accountant, start by taking a look at your finances and writing the top three financial issues your business struggles with most such as cash flow, invoicing or future financial planning. Once you have a better idea of what your business or personal financial pain points are, the easier it will be to pinpoint the type of financial help that’s best for you.
The Benefits of a Full-Service CPA
When you choose to go with a full-service CPA firm you typically have broader access to a range of customized tools that an online service may not be able to provide. An independent CPA can tailor their accounting services to meet your current and future financial goals including:
- General Accounting
- Financial Income Statements
- Tax Planning
- CFO Services (part-time, interim, and fractional CFO)
- Trust & Estate Planning
- Audits, Reviews, and Financial Compilations
- Forensic Accounting, Legal Testimony & Depositions
Why Online Services Can Prove Limiting
Online services are often very expensive, and typically focus primarily on tax services. They are often unable to accommodate personalized scenarios or provide advice. Tax software can often be complex to use, and even the biggest companies, like Intuit and TurboTax have admitted there have been some discrepancies in the way they market their free editions, resulting in extra fees for some unsuspecting users.
Furthermore, specialized situations often call for specialized filing, and you could end up paying more without the proper handling. When you pay for the services of a CPA, you’re not only paying for personalized service, you’re also developing a relationship that can support the full range of your financial needs for years to come.