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Tax preparers offer some big bargains

March 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The economy has hit everyone hard, including tax pros who are also dealing with the rising popularity of do-it-yourself software. But their loss can be your gain. Some of the biggest tax preparers are offering big bargains now that we're in the middle of tax season.

"I want to spend time with my family and do my photography, and the last thing I want to worry about is having my taxes not done right or not done on time," said Geneve Hoffman.

So she turns to a tax preparer. But with the shaky economy and rising popularity of cheap online software, many Americans are choosing to leave the pros behind and go it alone.

Though online business was up, retail business was down 5.7 percent over the prior year at H&R Block, the number one tax preparer.

At second largest Jackson Hewitt, returns fell 13 percent. And smaller preparers are feeling the pinch too. So they're offering whatever they can to bring people back in.

"To stay relevant in these challenging times, tax professionals need to make sure that they're giving more value than just simply preparing a tax return," said Michael B. Rubin, a certified public accountant.

Rubin says his firm is offering incentives and discounts to keep customers coming back, such as free one-on-one consultations, student discounts, and referral bonuses.

"Every client who refers to us another client saves $50 on their tax returns, as does the person they refer," said Rubin.

Shop around this year and you'll find tax preparers offering everything from $20 coupons online to 50 percent off for the unemployed. Some tax preparers are also offering early bird specials if you file before April.

H&R Block offers a new "best of both" program, which allows you to save money by doing your taxes online, then have them reviewed in person by a pro for about $80.

"The tax professional reviews your return, signs it, then electronically files it. If there are any errors or you've missed a deduction, the tax professional can make those changes as well," said Elaine Smith, H&R Block.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, Eyewitness News will be hosting its annual tax tip hotline. This is your chance to get your tax questions answered by our certified public accountants that are donating their time to help you out.