Sure, some feel confident only when they've crunched their own numbers and absorbed all the tax tips. Then there's everyone else, from the numerically challenged to those who sleep better knowing a pro stands behind the math. For them, a few hundred dollars for a professional's know-how can feel like money well spent.
Hired expertise has become valuable for Brian Libby, a freelance journalist in Portland, Ore. When he traded a regular wage for self-employment, he wanted more customized guidance on deductions and retirement contributions than he could get from either software or the tax-prep chain he'd previously used. He hired Joseph Anthony, a local tax preparer and enrolled agent (registered to represent taxpayers before the IRS). A former freelance writer himself, Mr. Anthony knew Mr. Libby's line of work – and relevant sections of the tax code – well enough to find savings and offer planning tips.
"Every year my income is a little different," Libby says. At midyear, "I report how I'm doing to Joseph, and he makes an updated suggestion about what my quarterly tax payments should be.… I'd rather [get advice than] be surprised and get a big tax bill at tax time."