Tax Pro vs. Turbo Tax - Where's the bigger refund?

By Jennifer Warnick - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - I've often wondered if I was doing taxes correctly and if an accountant could get a bigger refund. This year I went head to head, comparing my work on Turbo Tax to a professional accountant. We will be itemizing a federal return for a dual income couple, with a mortgage and two children.

I start with Turbo Tax. I'm not the quickest on a keyboard but it's pretty simple to get through. The questions are clear and I'm able to answer everything it asks. The Turbo Tax Deluxe Edition costs $49.95 to file both federal and state. It takes a while to get through, but I'm able to complete it.

So I take my paperwork to Hopewell Accountant Doreen Creel-Wood. She's been crunching numbers professionally for 18 years. She can prepare your federal and state returns for $65. Her fingers move much quicker than mine and before I know it, she's done.

"The average person's returns are not complicated," said Doreen.

But she's found a flaw in my work and it's one of the more common mistakes.

"That's a more mild mistake than others," she said.

I've deducted medical premiums that come out pretax, a "no-no" in the eyes of the IRS. So I go back to Turbo Tax to fix the error. Turbo Tax made no mention of the specific details I needed to know.

"If you don't know what you're doing Turbo Tax can get you in a lot of trouble," Doreen said.

So here's how it breaks down, the Turbo Tax refund is $3,792, the accountant's total is $3762. Turbo Tax costs about $52 with tax, the accountant was $65, both will cover state and federal returns. Turbo Tax is going to save $43, but it you have to consider what your time is worth. It took me 3 and half hours to finish, it took Doreen 30 minutes.

Plus, an accountant can give advice on savings for next year's taxes. Not to mention, she caught a mistake that could have resulted in an audit.

"You cannot put a price on peace of mind," Doreen said.

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