I’ve been reading a lot lately of tax professionals that are getting calls from people trying to file their own returns, but need to ask a quick question. That got me to thinking, what do I pay for that I could easily do on my own, and why don’t I do it myself. The closest thing I could come up with was changing the oil in my car. Sure, it only takes loosening the drain plug, draining the oil, changing the oil filter, putting back in the drain plug, and then re-filling the oil. Sounds pretty easy. But I take my cars to my local mechanic because he does much more than just change the oil. He checks all of the fluids, makes sure all the tires have the proper air, checks the brakes, and all of the other filters. My last oil change, my air filter was filthy, and my wiper blades were shot. I wouldn’t have checked any of these items if I were changing my own oil. But I could certainly do it. It is worth the approximately 40 – 50 dollars per oil change in my opinion.

So, how does this relate to tax return preparation? Well, when I am reviewing a clients documents for the preparation of his/her tax return, I try to look at it from different angles, and also look back at the past and into the future. There are many things that can change your tax situation from year to year. One example is when your children get another year older. Eventually, you will not be able to claim the child tax credit, or the education credits could come into play. I try to monitor the children as they age, and give you a year or two warning when a credit or deduction is going to make your tax situation different, and suggest ways to offset the lost credits or deductions so you aren’t hit with owing on your tax return without any warning. If you do your return with DIY software, you won’t get these warnings, and could have a tax liability that you weren’t expecting.

Additionally, many taxpayers have life changing events that come up during the year. I am available to assist my clients when they have questions on how these events will affect their taxes for the current year, or future years. I don’t think you can ask the box once you have filed your return how those events will affect your tax situation.

So, yes, I’m sure you can prepare your own tax return, and do a very good job at it, but are you missing out on any deductions that you could have taken, but had no one to ask. And are you able to look into the coming tax years and warn yourself that you will lose a thousand dollar credit next year because your son or daughter will be turning 17 during the year?

That’s why I don’t change my own oil.