Retail Tax Preparation Services vs. Accountants

tax preparation concept

There are three main tax filing options for you to consider: do-it-yourself, a retail tax preparation service or an accountant. Read on as we dive into the differences between retail tax preparation services and accountants and how you can decide which one is right for you.


Tax Professionals

Tax preparation services employ ‘tax professionals’, not certified accountants. This is not to say that employees are not qualified to help you with your taxes, as training for these positions is usually quite rigorous; however, they do not possess a degree in accounting or the level of experience an accountant would bring to the table.


There are two types of accountants you will run into: independent and CPA. An independent accountant has graduated with a related bachelor’s degree, while a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) has not only completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but has also achieved CPA accreditation. CPA accreditation requires additional coursework and experience requirements, as well as passing an exam.

Depending on how complex your tax return is, you may seek out different levels of experience to help you get the most out of your return.


Retail tax services offer a convenience that accounting firms can’t always accommodate. Accountants work on an appointment basis, while retail tax services give you the ability to just drop in whenever you have time. Retail preparation centers also usually offer extended hours to maximize convenience.  


Each tax preparation option comes with a different price tag. There are many online tax softwares that are free for users. Retail tax centers are the next most economical option, and an independent accountant will usually charge less than a CPA. Again, depending on complexity, the cost of an accountant can far outweigh the time and possible mistakes you might make doing it on your own. A person with one T4 for the whole year may find it a piece of cake to file online, but a self-employed contractor who also owns a rental property might not find it quite so simple.

How you choose to file your taxes should be based on the complexity of your return, your desire to take on the task, and your budget. While hiring an accountant may cost more than a retail tax preparation service, it will ensure that you’re getting the most up to date tax knowledge and the best return possible. If you’re looking for some tax help, contact the team at Liu & Associates. Our accountants are equipped to handle both corporate and personal tax solutions.