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Consistency of taxes by preparers
Old 02-21-2015, 08:32 AM   #1
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Consistency of taxes by preparers

I remember several years ago, Money magazine did a yearly article where they had the "same family" have different tax professionals do their taxes and the differences in the tax bills shocked me. I'm wondering if folks here have ever either done their taxes on their own AND also paid someone to do them. How close were the results?
I also remember a few years back, a firm (I think it was HR Block) said even if you had another firm do your taxes, they would check them for free to see if they could save you money.
Has anyone had two or more preparers calculate your taxes for the same year? How did it turn out?
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:10 AM   #2
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I've gone through the software interviews with TT and TaxCut using the same inputs and got different outputs. The interviews can certainly drag you into paying more, especially if you have no background and are just reading the interview questions without context.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:54 AM   #3
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With the complexity of the tax code it is a wonder any preparers get the same results unless they are doing simple W-2 tax returns. After I retired I did the H&R Block tax gig for five years and for the last three years I've been doing VITA (IRS sponsored volunteer tax prep). Competency of preparers vary greatly and it is not a bad idea to get a second opinion, called a 2nd Look at H&R Block offices. I've seen many smart and educated people screw up their taxes using software simply because they didn't understand the interview questions or assumed something went somewhere it didn't on their 1040s. By the way I remember a similar article in Business Week where three or four paid preparers using the same information got four different answers.
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Old 02-21-2015, 09:57 AM   #4
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It does happen. I am a CPA who does taxes, I have to say it is all in how you ask the question to the taxpayer. Perfect example was just today. New client listed Union Dues as a deduction. I asked him if that included any payments for retirement benefits. He said Yes, almost half of it. I told him that that portion wasn't deductible. He said his prior Accountant deducted them and never asked him that question.

There are some instances when a CPA will interpret tax law one way and another will interpret it another, but that doesn't happen that often. More often that not, it is just mistakes by either the Preparer or the Taxpayer.
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Old 02-21-2015, 10:01 AM   #5
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For the average taxpayer, one with enough income to actually need to pay some tax, the code is way too complicated to expect identical results from different preparers. How much will the "total tax" amount typically vary? 10%? 20%? More?
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Old 02-21-2015, 10:07 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by GrayHare View Post
For the average taxpayer, one with enough income to actually need to pay some tax, the code is way too complicated to expect identical results from different preparers. How much will the "total tax" amount typically vary? 10%? 20%? More?
That's the way Big Gov likes it. Open your mouth & they come after you thru the IRS. Pretty straightforward.
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