Should You Hire a Tax Professional, or Attempt Filing on Your Own?

As tax season approaches, many taxpayers face some of the same questions and concerns each and every year. And among the most commonly asked questions are these two frequently recurring ones:

  • Is it hard to do your own taxes?
  • Should I do my own taxes?

To help provide answers and insights regarding these often-posed tax questions, this blog article examines some of the leading advantages of filing your own taxes DIY and of hiring a professional some scenarios in which most taxpayers are likely to be comfortable preparing and filing their own taxes — along with others in which they might not.

Looking for helpful insights about DIY tax filing vs. hiring a professional? Read on for more information.


When self-filing might be a good option

For many American taxpayers, going the do-it-yourself route using IRS-approved tax-filing software to file electronically can be a time- and money-saving option. This is often the case when the taxpayer works a single job and there are minimal complicating factors affecting their tax returns, which typically makes the tax-preparation process relatively simple and straightforward.

Further, to help make this option more approachable, most tax-preparation software simplifies the process by walking taxpayers through preparing their returns step by step. And once their returns are prepared, taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is $79,000 or less are eligible to use the IRS Free File program to submit them.


Top advantages of DIY tax preparation and filing

Some of the leading advantages of preparing and filing your taxes without the help of a tax professional include:

  • Reduced costs: Of course, when you prepare your own taxes, you avoid the charges that come with hiring a tax professional. Further, the cost of purchasing tax-preparation software is, in most cases, substantially lower than that of hiring a professional — and there are even a number of free-of-charge options available.
  • Personal financial insights: When you prepare your own tax return, the process inherently forces you to explore and scrutinize your spending, saving, investments, and other financial moves for the tax year. This can provide valuable insights into your financial well-being and the efforts you’re taking to grow your wealth. It also offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on your financial goals and how you might be able to better achieve them.
  • Available assistance: For those who might need extra guidance when preparing their taxes, a wide range of assistance is available. Among them, the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) is a great free resource for getting answers to tax-related questions. And for qualifying taxpayers, the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs can provide preparation of basic tax returns free of charge.


… And when a pro might be needed

In other cases — and especially when the taxpayer has a limited tax knowledge and the return is more complicated — getting expert help might be a better way to go. Some common examples of situations where a potentially complicated return might make getting a tax professional’s help worthwhile include:

  • When the taxpayer has worked multiple jobs or has worked in multiple states over the course of the tax year
  • When the taxpayer has sold investments or a major asset such as a home or a business over the course of the tax year
  • When the taxpayer is self-employed or operates a side business
  • When the taxpayer has collected rental or business income, received investment income, or paid expenses related to any of these over the course of the tax year
  • When the taxpayer has been previously audited
  • When the taxpayer has recently experienced a major life change such as a marriage, a divorce, the birth of a child or the death of a loved one
  • When the taxpayer is seeking to maximize his or her taxable contributions to a retirement account
  • When the taxpayer is seeking to reduce his or her overall tax liability (such as with itemized deductions)

Top advantages of hiring a tax professional

Some of the leading advantages of preparing and filing your taxes with the help of a tax professional include:

  • Time savings: Even the simplest of tax returns can take hours to prepare, especially for a non-professional. But with the help of a professional tax preparer, returns can be completed much more quickly. And apart from the time spent answering the preparer’s questions about personal finances and collecting the needed forms and documents, the taxpayer can avoid the bulk of the time investment and heavy lifting.
  • Expert advice and minimal mistakes: Certified tax professionals are highly trained at preparing taxes and have a deep understanding of tax law. Especially in cases where the taxpayer’s financial situation includes complicating factors such as stock sales or a job loss, having access to such a professional’s expert knowledge can help the taxpayer limit his or her tax liability and avoid making costly errors.
  • Audit assistance: In the unlikely case that a taxpayer is audited by the IRS in the wake of a tax filing, having the backing of a tax professional can be a big help when trying to navigate through the audit process unscathed.


Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all of your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital banking solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans, and more, visit

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Man doing his banking online is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.