Okay, I admit it: I’m weird. I actually find taxes kind of fun. Or, at the very least, interesting.
I like finding deductions and figuring out how to lower net income etc. And so I’ve been doing my own taxes — and a few friends/family — for the last few years.
I even took a class at the local community college, where I was studying accounting. But it happened to be one of those freak winters where Seattle actually had snow, which caused class to be cancelled several times. I also missed classes due to fatigue.
Since there was no textbook — I’m guessing due to the ever-shifting tax law, though maybe the teacher was just weird — I just don’t feel like I learned enough to feel really trustworthy overall.
I mean, I can do basic business deductions/self-employment tax stuff. And when I have questions, I call the IRS for answers. Still, I would like to feel a bit more authoritative — especially considering the consequences of getting such things wrong.
So I am considering signing up for an H&R Block course.
For $250, you learn the ins and outs of taxes. Which is to say, you learn at least as much as the people who work at places like H&R Block. From what I understand, the company basically uses these courses as a potential workforce pool.
Okay, $250 is not exactly tiny. Then again, even simple returns from a tax preparation service can easily run $100. So, in the second year of doing your own taxes, you’ll probably break even. And you can always hurry the process along by putting out your shingle come tax time. Even if you charge $20-30 an hour, you’re still a small fraction of regular places.
Of course, you can rely on tax software, especially if your returns are simple. There are usually specials that allow you to get the software relatively cheaply. I think my mom got hers free after rebate.
Still, I want to be sure I know as many deductions and loopholes as possible.
The year I took the tax class, I was reminded that people traveling for work can opt for actual or per diem expenses. The latter is for people who don’t want the hassle of keeping receipts, etc.
Since the average per diem is at least $50, I saved a friend a bunch of money when she was offered a month-long stint in another state. She stayed with a friend during the time and cooked her own meals. But she was allowed to deduct the same amount as someone who stayed in a hotel and ate every meal out.
Those kinds of details are what I’m afraid I’m missing out on by not taking a professional course.
That said, I may not make it into a class this year. All the overtime I’ve been working has really taken its toll, and Tim’s concerned that I’ll be stretching myself too thin if I jump into a tax class in mid-September.
My argument is that I will have had the better part of 6 weeks to decompress, since the other worker is coming back from maternity leave soon. But we got awfully close to bickering about realistic expectations versus Type A personalities. So I suggested we just table the discussion until early September.
For those of you without severe fatigue — whether from a disability or life in general — I do highly recommend taking the course. It might just be the most frugal $250 you ever dished out!