Weigh options when deciding whether or not to hire a tax professional

Each filing season, Americans gather their tax paperwork and wonder whether or not they should hire a professional to file their returns. As tax codes become more complicated and the costs of do-it-yourself programs rise, more Americans are turning to tax preparation services to reduce the costs of completing their tax forms. However, cost is not the only factor consumers should take into consideration. There are a number of instances in which taxpayers should rely on a professional to avoid making significant errors that could delay their refund or result in an audit.

For example, individuals who have multiple sources of income, investments or trusts benefit from tax preparation services. Investments add a layer of complexity to tax returns and other factors, such as capital gains/losses, dividend payouts and the sale of stocks or bonds can only make the process more difficult. The same logic holds true for consumers who have made changes to their retirement accounts, such as converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Consumers who underwent a significant life change, such as starting a family, should also contact a trusted tax preparer. Some changes, such as marriage, divorce, legal separation or widowhood can change an individual's tax status, and by extension, the credits or deductions for which they may be eligible. Individuals should not overlook the importance of minor changes, such as searching for a new job, on their taxes. A large number of lesser-known tax benefits exist that could impact their tax liability or refund.

Self-employed workers, independent contractors and freelancers may also need some additional assistance preparing their tax forms. Oftentimes, self-employed individuals overlook certain tax breaks that may benefit them, such as a home office deduction. Additionally, independent workers and freelancers will be required to pay their own taxes, as employers do not take income, Social Security or Medicare taxes out of their paychecks.

As a result of the economy, many Americans may have lost their home to foreclosure or had a significant amount of debt forgiven. These events will have tax implications, so it's important to seek out the services of an experienced professional to ensure all documents are submitted correctly.

New tax laws, rules and benefits are introduced each year, and it may be difficult for Americans to keep up with them. However, trained professionals can help ensure filers are getting the most out of their taxes and help cut down on reporting errors.

Liberty Tax Service provides computerized income tax preparation and electronic filing. Each tax office offers customers audit assistance, a money back guarantee, and free tax return checking.