What are my options for filing taxes, and how much will it cost?

Not sure how to file your taxes this year? You’re not alone—when you have self-employment income, it can be tough to decide if you should shell out for an accountant, or go at it alone with a filing software.

There are a ton of tax filing options available to you, and they come at varying costs. Here’s how to evaluate all of the options out there to find the best filing method for you, without overpaying.

Accountants or tax return preparers

Price: Between $100-$450 per hour

Time you’ll spend: Usually <2 hours

Quality: Great

Good option for: Complicated tax returns, or people who are really nervous about tax filing

Did  you have multiple types of income, own a home, incur high medical costs, manage an inventory, or have any tax filing situation that requires extensive bookkeeping throughout the year? These tax filing situations usually indicate you’ll need to file a few extra forms along with your typical Form 1040.

If you know you have a complicated tax return and are willing to spend a little extra for a tax preparer or CPA, then it’s probably worth out for a licensed tax preparer. You’ll also get some peace of mind knowing that a professional is helping you out.

For one of these individuals (like a CPA, tax attorney, or EA), you’ll typically pay between $100-$450 per hour.

Tax filing softwares

Price: $0-$90

Time you’ll spend: About 2 hours

Quality: Great

Good option for: Easy or moderately complex returns, or people who like managing their own finances

Even if you’ve never filed your taxes on your own before, a tax filing software can almost always walk you through your tax return in a way that makes the entire process much easier than you’d think. All you’ll have to do is answer a series of “interview” questions about your tax filing situation.

If these questions like the ones below seem manageable to you, then you’re probably well-equipped to handle tax filing on your own:

“How much money did you get from 1099s this year?”

“How much did you have in vehicle expenses for your business?”

“Are you married, and if so, are you filing taxes together?”

“Do you want to claim dependents, and what are their Social Security Numbers?”

Softwares can also give you recommendations based on the information that you give. For example, you won’t have to decide for yourself if you need to take the standard deduction or itemize your deductions; a tax filing software will look at the tax information you’ve entered, and decide for you.

If you ever get stuck, most filing softwares have an online tax center or a dedicated support team to answer questions.

Free tax filing programs

Price: $0

Time you’ll spend: 2-4 hours

Quality: Good

Good option for: Those with income under $54,000 per year

There are also a number of free tax preparation nonprofits that will help you at no charge, depending on your income.

For example, the IRS’s VITA program can help you find free tax preparation in your area. Here’s where you can search for a tax prep location in your zip code.

If you’re in need of assistance with paying your tax bill or resolving any tax disputes with the IRS, you can also get free or low-cost assistance via the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

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