NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - When it comes to tax time a lot of us turn to professionals for help, either accountants or tax preparation services like H&R Block. But a lot of people may be able to do their own taxes. And if you do need help, you may be able to get it for free.
If you haven't done your taxes yet, the clock is ticking. But before you call an accountant or a tax prep service, consider this: The average American does not need professional tax help, according to Sean McQuay, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. He says most Americans can easily do their own taxes using online software and save money in the process. He says tax professionals cost almost $300 or more per year whereas most tax software costs between $20 and $50.
So when should you use a tax professional? McQuay says if you own a small business or have any side gigs or freelance, you may need a tax preparer to help make sure you're reporting all your earnings and losses accurately. McQuay says you should also consider using a professional if you've had family changes (birth of a child or marriage), if you own stocks or other investments, or if you're being audited.
But some people may not be able to easily access online tax services. That is where services like the Financial Clinic's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program come in. Stefan Hench is the director of services for the financial clinic, which each year helps about 5,000 low- to middle-income New Yorkers prepare their taxes for free at sites like Union Settlement in East Harlem. He says you can sit down with a staff member or volunteer who will go line by line through your tax forms to make sure everything is accurate. He says the free service is for people who have a relatively simple tax return and make $54,000 or less.
The IRS also offers free tax prep software for individuals earning less than $64,000.
However you decide to file, just make sure to do it on time. Tax day is April 18, 2017.