Who is the best option to prepare your taxes. Well it depends. As tax season is almost upon us again, it is good to know your options.
What are you options
2) Retail shop
3) Enrolled Agent
6) Tax office
7) Free clinic
Self preparation makes the most sense if your taxes are very simple. The IRS will even let you file online for free on it's own website if it is simple enough. Most software systems do not explore the more complex attributes of taxes and some people can be confused by the questions it may ask creating mistakes.
Retail shops are great if you are in a rush. They tend of have a lot of people who are season and rely heavily on the tax software. Good luck getting a hold of someone after tax season if your get a letter from the IRS. Many of these places close down until the next year.
Enrolled Agents are the only ones with a federal license directly from the Treasury Department. Many used to work for the IRS and can represent you at the highest levels...higher than a CPA could. They are considered the tax exprerts.
CPA literally stands for Certified Public Accountant. Their primary role is accounting and auditing. Some go on to learn the tax trade but most stay focused on the accounting aspect.
Lawyers would be most expensive option. Lawyers focus on many things and some are tax attorneys which may be overkill for most taxpayers.
What is meant by "tax office". The IRS and states will prepare your taxes for you. You have to go to them individually (for example IRS and then Maryland) and they will do this for free. Don't expect them to explore any deductions with you or talk about tax planning.
There are also free tax clinics every year that are funded by large organizations such as AARP for free tax preparation. These people are not held to the same standard are paid tax prepares as they IRS does not hold the responsible for issues. The volunteers tend to rely heavily on the tax software.