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CPA vs. Tax Shop: You Better Choose Wisely

Posted by Daniel Wolfe Posted on Feb 27 2016

By Daniel Wolfe

The thought of receiving your tax refund check as fast as you can say “1040” sounds pretty enticing. The faster you get the cash, the sooner you can purchase that new smart TV or book this year’s trip to the beach.

This time of year, “tax shops” lure taxpayers with promises of “guaranteed maximum refunds,” $50 gift cards, and accurate results. All this, for the cheapest tax prep fees out there.

But, just like in life, you often get what you pay for. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And, when it comes to messing with the IRS, you can’t afford to cut costs or corners just so you can walk out the tax shop door with a check in your hand.

In order to protect yourself, consider hiring a professional accountant to prepare your return. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) specialize in business and personal tax preparation, along with other financial services.

Why Choose a CPA?

Here are 3 important reasons to choose a CPA over a tax shop this tax season:

1. Education. CPAs are highly educated. In order to be a CPA, you must have 150 credit hours of college education, equivalent to 5 years of college, have worked in the industry for at least 2 years and pass a very stringent exam (only about 25% of those taking the exam pass it for each time the exam is given). CPAs are required to have annual continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses.

2. More than just taxes. Having a CPA prepare your tax return establishes a relationship with someone who will be your adviser on other financial matters. CPAs have comprehensive knowledge of financial affairs and can assist in dealings with the bank, mortgage company and business decisions.

3. Protect you against IRS. CPAs are one of three classes of professionals that can represent you in front of the IRS, should you or your business be audited. “Joe” at the tax shop will not be able to protect you against the IRS.

Dan Wolfe is a partner at Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer. He can be reached at 330.385.2160 or